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.”
Free Speech Coalition condemns National's call to bar Manning
28 August 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The political whims of the National Party must not curtail our right to engage in the most relevant topics of our age says the Free Speech Coalition which is calling on the National Party MP, Michael Woodhouse, to reconsider his comments to the media earlier today.
“The subject of our allies wartime conduct is a matter of great public importance,” says Chris Trotter, a spokesperson for the Free Speech Coalition.
“As a democracy, we have a right to be informed on the activities of our friends on the international stage. New Zealanders deserve a chance to hear her speak.”
“There are other examples of previously convicted criminals that have been allowed entry into New Zealand. Nelson Mandela was allowed entrance in 1995. And Jordan Belfort, also known as the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’, was allowed to give a series of motivational speeches in 2014. If these convicted criminals were able to speak in New Zealand, why is Manning any different?”
“We agree with the reported comments Green Party MP Golriz Ghahraman that Mr Woodhouse’s campaign for censorship is offensive. New Zealanders should not be denied an opportunity to hear a personal account of military use of power, even by an ally. The Free Speech Coalition hopes Ms Ghahraman continues to support the principle of free speech, no matter the politics of the individual speakers.”
“This isn’t an issue of defending breach of confidence or leaking military secrets. Rather, it is the right of New Zealanders to hear from someone who is noteworthy albeit controversial.”
Local Government Codes of Conduct must not suppress free speech
20 August 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Codes of Conduct drawn up by local government authorities must not encroach upon the rights of elected councillors to speak freely about the behaviour of their own council, its councillors and/or its officials.
The Gisborne District Council’s Deputy Mayor, Rehette Stoltz, has called-in Councillor Meredith Akuhata-Brown and demanded an explanation for why she spoke to RNZ National about her recent complaint concerning the conduct of two of her fellow councillors. Ms Akuhata-Brown alleges that these councillors had commented at a recent Council function that Captain Cook and his successors had not killed enough Maori.
Free Speech Coalition member Chris Trotter says:
“The Gisborne District Council’s Code of Conduct prohibits councillors from publicly criticising the Council, fellow councillors and/or council officials. Hence the Deputy-Mayor’s please explain summons.”
“Councillors all over New Zealanders are expected to sign similar Codes of Conduct upon election.”
“In doing so, however, they need to be careful not to sign away their ability to act as effective democratic representatives.”
“It is absurd to expect a councillor to remain silent in the face of what he or she believes to be unfair, outrageous or corrupt conduct on the part of the local authorities they serve. Councillors are there to act on behalf of the voters who elected them and they must not be required to reject the means of fulfilling that responsibility before taking their seat at the Council table.”
“The Gisborne incident is a timely example of the central role freedom of speech plays in the democratic process and illustrates the importance of resisting any and all attempts to stifle free political expression.”
“Prohibiting elected representatives from sharing their concerns with their constituents through the news media is a democratic outrage. The Free Speech Coalition strongly urges central government to take a much greater interest in the content of local authority codes of conduct to ensure they do not breach the freedom of expression provisions of the Bill of Rights Act and the Human Rights Act.”
The Free Speech Coalition is planning to take legal action against Massey University's Vice Chancellor, Jan Thomas, on her decision to cancel an event hosted by Massey's Manawatu Politics Society featuring Dr Don Brash.
The Vice Chancellor claimed that the reason for cancelling the event was due to "security concerns" on social media as a response to Dr Brash's political views.
You can read the full story here.
Thanks to the kind support of members of the public who agree that standing up for freedom of speech is important, we have been able to afford a full page call to aciton published in today's Herald on Sunday.
The public letter has the endorsement from a dozen respected New Zealanders from across the political spectrum.
You can read the full letter here.
Thank you to our members and financial supporters who have made this possible – and to in particular to those members of the coalition who agreed to have their name listed.
Free Speech Coalition raising funds for legal action against Massey University Vice-Chancellor
9 AUGUST 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Free Speech Coalition has resolved that, contingent on raising sufficient funds, it will be issuing legal proceedings against the Vice-Chancellor of Massey University.
Free Speech Coalition member Melissa Derby says, “Massey University’s action in barring Don Brash raises very similar legal and ethical issues as Auckland Council’s ban on Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux from Council-owned venues. In both bases, an authority has used threats of disruptive protest as an excuse to shut down contentious speech. This is the thug’s veto in action.”
“Vice-Chancellor Jan Thomas’ ‘security concerns’ appear to be a ruse to obscure her real motivation – her personal distaste for Don Brash’s opposition to Maori wards on councils, a view she describes as ‘dangerously close to hate speech’, in addition to his support of the speech rights of the recent Canadian visitors.”
“This is a disgraceful breach of the University’s own charter and mission to "promote free and rational inquiry", and sets a dangerously low bar for ‘hate speech’.”
“At the same time, we continue to engage Auckland Council in the High Court for their capitulation to the thugs. We face significant legal costs, but are advised that the marginal cost of bringing Massey into our case will be lower than for someone launching independent action.”
Dr David Cumin, another member of the Free Speech Coalition, says, “With Massey University refusing to back down on barring Don Brash from speaking on campus, it is clear that free speech issues are not going away. Many supporters of the cause have contacted us to urge the Free Speech Coalition to become permanent. We have now resolved to incorporate as a permanent group.”
“New Zealanders are welcome to join and donate to the coalition at https://freespeech.nationbuilder.com/join.