24 June 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Chief Human Rights Commissioner Should Stay In His Lane
The Free Speech Union says that Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt wasn’t hired to tell artists what work they can and can’t produce. He should start defending human rights, not stand against freedom of expression.
A spokesperson for the Union, Stephen Franks says “The Commissioner calls for a proposed film of the March 15th atrocity to be cancelled due to its potential to upset members of the Muslim community. A petition to have the production cancelled has garnered 70,000 signatures but whether a film is made, or how it is made is absolutely none of Paul Hunt’s business.”
“Both Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and National party leader Judith Collins expressed their own reservations about the taste and timing of the film, but both also said that it was not their place to tell the filmmakers they should cancel the project.”
“They were respecting freedom of speech. Yet Hunt thinks he has the right to call for a piece of art to be stopped.”
“Hunt is quoted as saying ‘As a country, we have a responsibility to do all we can to ensure that Muslim New Zealanders are represented accurately in stories’. We have no such responsibility to effectively police artworks. The opposite is true. Hunt wouldn’t even know the script and intentions of the filmmakers. His stance recalls members of the Evangelical Right who protested outside screenings of Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ while proudly admitting they hadn’t seen the film, had no intention of seeing the film, yet still demanded that it be banned.”
“It is telling that Hunt would release this statement, but when a feminist group was banned from several council-run venues only a week ago, an openly discriminatory and unlawful act in clear breach of our bill of rights, his office was silent.”
“Hunt is perfectly entitled to the view that a film representing the attacks is premature, has the potential to upset victims, and that it should not be made. But this is a personal view. I happen to share it. But in his capacity as Chief Commissioner he should take care to reinforce, not undermine freedom of expression. He’s a disgrace to his office, acting in complete opposition to what he is paid to do."
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