Pages tagged "Censorship"

  • Free Speech Union Welcomes National's Call For Review Of Police Inaction At Protest

    29 March 2023


    Free Speech Union Welcomes National's Call For Review Of Police Inaction At Protest

    The National Party has called for a review of why police failed to defend free speech at Albert Park, joining their voice with the over 20,000 Kiwis calling for the Minister of Police and Police Commissioner to address police inaction. We welcome their support for this issue, and reiterate the need for accountability for this violence, says Jonathan Ayling, Chief Executive of the Free Speech Union.

    "In less than 72 hours, over 20,000 Kiwis have joined their voices together in a public letter denouncing police inaction, which enabled the violent scenes witnessed at the 'Let Women Speak' event.

    "Free speech guarantees the right to both express perspectives and views, and also to hear others' perspectives and views. The Police have failed in their duty to protect these foundational rights.

    "Kiwis expect the police to ensure that they can exercise their rights without being intimidated or attacked. If you allow the Thug's Veto to take free speech off the table, contested opinions and beliefs don’t simply go away. However, the ability to express them peacefully is undone.

    "This leaves only far more extreme forms of expression on the table. We are concerned for the tenor of public debate, and the potential for this to produce violence. Free speech is an antidote for this, but it must be protected by the police.

  • High Court Decision The Only Right Result For Nation That Values Free Speech

    24 March 2023


    High Court Decision The Only Right Result For Nation That Values Free Speech

    The Free Speech Union welcomes the decision of the High Court to reject the application to overrule the decision of the Minister of Immigration to allow Kellie-Jay entry into New Zealand. This was the only right result for a nation that values tolerance, the ability to debate, and free speech, says Jonathan Ayling, Chief Executive of the Free Speech Union.

    ‘The Free Speech Union joined as an intervener in this application as there was a clear interest in the speech rights of Kellie-Jay and those who wished to have her in New Zealand. Had we not joined we firmly believe that the free speech rights of Kellie-Jay would not have been properly heard out.

    ‘The applicants in their submissions argued that Kelly-Jay was a threat to public order, but all they could point to were expressions of her opinions. Clearly there was no actual basis for the Minister of Immigration to deny her entry into New Zealand and his decision was correctly upheld.

    ‘With Kelly-Jay now able to enter New Zealand, she retains the right to have her say, as do those who wish to hear her speak. Those who oppose her also now retain the chance to combat her ideas not with censorship but with counter-protest, as should be expected in a tolerant, democratic, society.

    ‘We expect this will not be the last we hear of this application, nor Kellie-Jay’s tour in the context of her speech rights, but nonetheless this is an important win in upholding free speech in New Zealand. If necessary, the Free Speech Union stands ready to continue the fight for New Zealanders' speech rights regardless of the subject matter.’

  • Free Speech Union Granted Intervening Status In Posie Parker Judicial Review

    24 March 2023


    Free Speech Union Granted Intervening Status In Posie Parker Judicial Review

    The Free Speech Union will be an intervener this morning as the High Court considers whether Immigration New Zealand's decision to allow Posie Parker (Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull) entry into New Zealand was legal, says Jonathan Ayling, Chief Executive of the Free Speech Union.

    "We know that some powers that be would be pleased to see this decision reversed. We must ensure that the strongest arguments are made in favour of free speech.

    "Crown Law has indicated that they will argue that there is no evidence that Posie Parker poses a harm to New Zealand. While this is a legitimate defence of INZ's decision, it is crucial there is also a principled defence of free speech.

    "If the High Court decides to overrule this decision, it could set a deeply-troubling precedent for others attempting to enter New Zealand who espouse controversial views.

    "Censors seeking to review Posie Parker's entry into New Zealand only give her more prominence and legitimacy. Protest peacefully, yes, but don't shut her down. This morning, we will fight to protect Kiwis' free speech (including the right to hear others' speech)."

  • Sense Prevails As Immigration NZ Chooses To Allow Free Speech Of British Speaker

    23 March 2023


    Sense Prevails As Immigration NZ Chooses To Allow Free Speech Of British Speaker

    The Free Speech Union welcomes the decision by Immigration New Zealand to not suspend Kellie-Kay Keen-Minshull's NZeTA and to allow her entry into the country, says Jonathan Ayling, Chief Executive of the Free Speech Union.

    “The Free Speech Union envisions a flourishing New Zealand civil society that values and protects vigorous debate, dissenting ideas, and freedom of speech as cultural cornerstones. While Keen-Minshull's comments are controversial and offensive to some Kiwis, we must remember that the principle of free speech defends, first of all, the speech others do not want to hear.

    "As we have stood for Kellie-Kay Keen Minshull's right to enter the country and express her beliefs regarding women's rights, likewise, we stand by the right for all Kiwis who disagree with her to express their disapproval through peaceful protest and counter-speech.

    "While free speech allows for, at times, disruptive debate, it is this very disruption that makes free speech a progressive cause that ensures societies do not stagnate or stop moving forward. The way to beat bad ideas is with better ideas, not censorship.

    "We applaud Immigration New Zealand for not disrupting Kiwis' right to hear debate and expression on contested issues."

  • Rotorua Lakes Council Votes To Silence Submitters With Censorious Submissions Policy

    9 February 2023


    Rotorua Lakes Council Votes To Silence Submitters With Censorious Submissions Policy

    The Rotorua Lakes Council voted yesterday, without public consultation, to progress a policy to “remove from consideration” public submissions if they are deemed “offensive”, “discriminatory” or “irrelevant”. This represents a clear violation of the speech rights of submitters to this Council, and a breach of the Bill of Rights Act says Jonathan Ayling, Chief Executive of the Free Speech Union.

    ‘When this policy was presented to the Councillors yesterday, it was initially sold as abridging language such as swear words, or clearly vexatious submissions. Yet the true effect of the policy was immediately betrayed with discussion on it capturing “hate speech”.

    ‘Empty gestures were made about protecting freedom of speech. Yet, as the policy was described as “running a filter over things” it is clearly aimed at suppressing submissions the Council simply does want to hear. The debate on the policy was truly disappointing, revealing the contempt some of the Councillors had for the public submissions process, one Councillor remarking “you sit there and go "how did this get through."

    ‘Particularly insulting (and ironic) is the fact that the policy was put to Council without any consultation with either the public, or even elected representatives. Concerns were raised about the perception of this policy and the reputational risk it poses to the Council. Such concerns are entirely justified.

    'Kiwis have the right to be heard by their representatives and to raise concerns with their elected representatives on matters of policy. Representatives have an obligation to hear these concerns, even when the representatives believe the views expressed, or the manner in which they are expressed, are offensive or derogatory.

    'This policy, where certain submissions are screened and disregarded due to such content, is inconsistent with the role of local government representatives. We are preparing legal filings against the Council in this issue.'

  • No, It's Not 'understandable': Sport Northland Contravenes NZBORA By Denying Venue Access

    27 January 2023


    No, It's Not 'understandable': Sport Northland Contravenes NZBORA By Denying Venue Access

    The decision by Sport Northland to deny 'Stop Co-Governance', a community group, use of their Whangarei venue to hold a public meeting is illegal and defies the rights given to all Kiwis to voice their political opinions. This case, yet again, illustrates the contempt held by many for the foundational liberty of free speech, and it cannot be allowed to stand, says Jonathan Ayling, Chief Executive of the Free Speech Union.

    "While a private organisation, Sport Northland receives public funding from both local and central government. As such, it must accept the duties placed on it by NZBORA, including non-discrimination and the right to free speech, for those that use its facilities.

    "The Free Speech Union stands by the right for this community group, or any lawful organisation, to make their claims in a publically funded venue.

    "In the case Whitmore and Palmerston North City Council, which the Free Speech Union supported, the High Court found the cancellation decision was not a rational and reasonable limitation on rights and ordered that the event proceed. The similarities to this case are striking and we are confident the Courts will rule similarly.

    "In correspondence with 'Stop Co-Governance', Sport Northland claimed they had 'recently changed their board structure to that of co-governance' so could not accept their booking. They concluded by stating they 'hoped this [was] understandable'.

    "This neglect of Kiwis' speech rights is not understandable. The Free Speech Union is preparing legal action to stand for the speech rights of 'Stop Co-Governance'. We call on Sport Northland to apologise for this unacceptable breach of speech rights and accept the booking of this group."

  • Thousands Call For Parliament To Keep Terrorist Charges For Terrorist Activities And Material Only

    30 November 2022


    Thousands Call For Parliament To Keep Terrorist Charges For Terrorist Activities And Material Only

    In less than 24 hours, over 5,000 Kiwis have signed the Free Speech Union's petition calling on Parliament to drop Clause 15 of the Counter-Terrorism Acts (Designations and Control Orders) Amendment Bill. The Justice Select Committee must protect Kiwis' speech rights and civil liberties, and amend this legislation before sending it back to the House, says Jonathan Ayling, spokesperson for the Union.

    "Terrorist charges need to be used for terrorist activity, not regulating material that has nothing to do with terrorism. Watering down such a significant term runs the risk of seeing Kiwis legally branded 'terrorists' without ever performing any terrorist act, or even accessing material which promotes terrorism.

    "The act of terrorism comes with appropriately harsh penalties. By extending terrorism related charges to individuals who possess certain 'objectionable material', these significant penalties may be placed on those who have simply accessed censored material, despite it being unrelated to terrorism.

    "Legislation already allows for individuals in possession of material which advocates or inspires terrorism to be charged under terrorism laws. Extending this further to material that is entirely unrelated to terrorism is a law ripe for abuse.

    "New Zealand already has a strict censorship regime. It's not hard to imagine the incredible harm which could occur to speech rights and other liberties if this amendment was used as a precedent to justify the prohibition of other material under terrorism legislation.

    "Thousands have called on Parliament to keep terrorist charges for terrorist activity and material. The stakes are too high to bandy this term about."

  • Terrorist Charges For Terrorist Active And Content Only

    18 November 2022


    Terrorist Charges For Terrorist Active And Content Only

    Changes proposed under Clause 15 of the Counter-Terrorism Acts (Designations and Control Orders) Amendment Bill extend the term 'terrorist' (and the option for 'Control Orders,' which remove many basic civil liberties) to those who possess 'objectionable material' even if the material has nothing to do with terrorism. Terrorist charges should be for terrorist activity and content only. This Clause must be removed, says Jonathan Ayling, spokesperson for the Free Speech Union.

    'This opens Kiwis up to persecution under terrorism legislation without having actually engaged in any terrorism-related activities of. any. kind. Clause 15 of this Bill could make those who possess objectionable material (some of which is legally available overseas) subject to terrorism-related legislation.

    'Examples of objectionable material include films such as Cannibal Holocaust, The Human Centipede 2, and Fireball: Muay Thai Dunk. The video game Reservoir Dogs, based on Quentin Tarantino’s film of the same name, also has the classification of “objectionable”, as do the games Manhunt and its sequel Manhunt 2, produced by Rockstar games, the same company that made the Grand Theft Auto series.

    'These films and video games have been widely viewed overseas; Fireball has even won an award at the Fant-Asia Film Festival for “Most Energetic Film”, yet the possession of them in New Zealand is a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison... and under this legislation, it could see those who possess it "terrorists".

    'It's easy to imagine a conservative censor declaring material promoting abortion rights, for example, as advocating violence against the unborn and, therefore, objectionable. Under this Bill, such material could be part of a terrorism offense.

    'Bizarrely, the National Party is supporting this legislation. The Opposition must insist that this overreach be removed from the Bill.

    'The Government has an important role to keep its citizens safe. Terrorism, which is violence for political ends, is the very opposite of free speech. But extending the net so wide that those who possess celebrated material unrelated are considered 'terrorists' is a gross overreach. This clause has to go.'

  • Counter-protest, Not Censorship, Should Be First Port Of Call For Auckland Feminists

    15 November 2022


    Counter-protest, Not Censorship, Should Be First Port Of Call For Auckland Feminists

    The Auckland Feminist Action’s plan to hold a counter-protest outside the venues of Jordan Peterson’s speaking tour should be the primary, not backup, response to his speech. Auckland and Christchurch Councils must reject calls to deny Peterson the use of public venues, says Jonthan Ayling, spokesperson for the Free Speech Union.

    “Calling for the cancellation of a speaking tour, rather than engaging with its content and combatting it with better ideas is no way to ensure those ideas can be properly tested. If Peterson’s ideas are as toxic as his opponents say, then it should be no problem for them to let his views be publicly beaten with better speech.

    “Figures like Peterson show time and again that cancellations and attempts to de-platform don’t work. When a figure has built their brand by opposing ‘cancel culture’, being de-platformed only serves to enhance that brand. Almost perversely, if the Auckland Feminist Action succeeds in having Peterson’s shows cancelled, they may only further his agenda and harm their own.

    “Auckland Feminist Action should remember the crucial role free speech has played in ensuring women have a voice in our communities. From the suffrage movement to modern battles for gender equality, the principles of free speech have ensured women’s voices are heard. Undermining this freedom now is counterproductive.

    “City Councils hosting Peterson should also remember that since the cancellation of the two Canadian alt-right speakers in 2018, the High Court and Court of Appeal have ruled that they do not even have the legal authority to withhold the use of public venues to speakers on the basis of their views.

    “In the debate on the use of publicly owned venues, the Free Speech Union has won this fight multiple times before. If it comes up again, we’ll win it again.

  • The Road To Hell Is Paved With (Censorious) Good Intentions

    Our Prime Minister has quickly become a polarizing figure on the international stage. Jacinda Ardern is either fawned over and adored or vilified and framed as the smiling face of authoritarianism. Considering that if New Zealand was a U.S. state it would only be the 25th most populated, it is extraordinary that Ardern has such star power.

    Her recent speech to an almost empty United Nations Assembly in New York has typically inspired the Ardern lovers and haters to take to the internet to express their heartfelt convictions. Her assertions that mis- and dis-information are ‘weapons of war’ has unsurprisingly gone down like a cup of cold sick with freedom loving Americans, while Western proponents of safetyism have applauded her. 

    As always, the truth of the matter lies somewhere between the two camps. Jacinda Ardern is not an evil genius hellbent
    on the destruction of Western democracy, however that doesn’t mean that what she is doing is right or justified. The road to hell, after all, is paved with (in this case, censorious) good intentions.

    What Ardern and her advisors on these matters are guilty of is incredible arrogance and historical ignorance. They presume that the Government is best placed to decide what is true and what is right and that the populace needs to be shepherded towards righteousness because they are easily corrupted. The inverse is true. 

    Governments are often wrong. It isn’t necessary to be a professor of history to understand that Government mistakes have had terrible consequences historically. The existence of our own Waitangi Tribunal and the continuing settlements between Crown and iwi is evidence of that. Ardern herself delivered a state apology to Pacific Island communities for the Dawn Raids – a terrible policy that existed under both Labour and National Governments. 

    It is governments who need to be monitored by the people lest they become self-interested and infatuated with their own importance. What is true and right should not be decided at a Cabinet Meeting or by public servants. The Enlightenment taught us that reason is argued for and debated, springing from the process of collective discernment. It is through the percolation of ideas and knowledge in society that truth is established. We appeal to authorities and experts at times, but ultimately the collective wisdom of the sum of our experiences is what gives legitimacy to beliefs and thought.

    Whether Ardern intends it or not, her rhetoric on free speech and mis-/dis-information is advocacy for the might of the state. She is calling for Government to expand its powers to empower thought and speech control. While I doubt that it is her intention to imbue herself with the power of a dictator, these ideas are authoritarian. The Ardern Government would do well to remember that the power of persuasion through compelling argument and community engagement is much more likely to ensure long term support for an idea than wielding the hammer of the state and the justice system.

    Just like governments, people have bad ideas all the time. There are people around today who still think the world is flat! Thinking something and even espousing something that is incorrect is not evil and should not be treated as a threat so dangerous that it must be forcefully stamped out. Free speech is fundamental to the monitoring of bad ideas that come from our governments. Without it, women wouldn’t have the vote, homosexuality would still be illegal, and any number of racist laws would never have been overturned.

    Governments change, but the powers we allow them to grab are passed to the next. One person’s misinformation is another person’s deeply held belief and, no offence, but I don’t trust Jacinda Ardern or Christopher Luxon to determine which is correct.

    Ani O'Brien

    Ani O'Brien 

    Council Member
    Free Speech Union


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