Harmful Digital Communications Act deployed against free speech
12 September 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
A challenge to suppress media organisations suggests the Harmful Communications Act may need to be scrapped, says the Free Speech Coalition.
Coalition spokesman Dr David Cumin says, “Sir Ray Avery’s use of cyberbullying laws to attempt to shut down media reports on matters of public interest shows how this well-intended legislation can be weaponised against legitimate speech.”
“Once upon a time, Sir Ray's main recourse against the media would have been defamation law. But now, he has an easier route – the Harmful Digital Communications Act allows him to claim ‘serious emotional distress’ and ‘digital harm’, without having to demonstrate that Newsroom’s reports are untrue.”
“This case shows just how dangerous it is to legislate against subjective notions of ‘emotional distress’. Our speech rights should not be subject to someone else’s sense of personal offence. And as with defamation, truth should be an ultimate defence.”
“In being dragged through the complaints process, Newsroom has already been penalised for its speech – the punishment is in the process. This, combined with the chilling effect that this process may have on other journalists writing similar articles, shows that the Harmful Digital Communications Act is not fit for purpose. If the Act cannot be salvaged, it should be scrapped.”