Skip to Content »

Judge upholds freedom of speech

  • July 15th, 2008

Credit to TVNZ for appealing against the appalling Broadcasting Standards Authority decision that a convict’s right not to feel public shame and humiliation trumps our right to a media free to broadcast the truth about conviction, including identifying footage of the convict.

And bigger ups  to High Court Judge Jill Mallon for vindicating TVNZ and slapping down that Broadcasting Standards Authority decision. Despite the ritual claim to be concerned about "freedom" in its mission statement, the BSA is among our greatest enemies of free speech.

Judges do not always get opportunities to hear cases in the areas of law in which they specialised before appointment. Media law was among Mallon J’s specialties at Bell Gully before her 1996 appointment to the Bench.

I hope the Advertising Standards Authority is similarly challenged some day soon. After many years of sterling service (much of it under the influence of Complaints Board Chairman Laurie Cameron and Executive Director Glen Wiggs) it badly lost its way a few years ago when it constructed a right not to be laughed at. That right has since been used to trump free commercial speech on a number of  occasions. .

Theoretically, as a voluntary association, the ASA’s subordination of freedom of speech should not be as sinister as the statutory coercion of the Broadcasting Standards Authority.  The problem is that the NZ media universally obey the ASA (though Ian Wishart in Investigate magazine would probably reserve his freedom to ignore them). So the ASA’s indifference to (or ignorance of) the fundamental feature of freedom of speech – that it only needs defence when it does offend) is a practical problem for those who would uphold liberty here.

As a member of the Justice and Electoral Select Committee I tried to get the ASA to explore the implications of some of its more stupid decisions on electoral free speech. On their reasoning a lot of very important electoral advertising could be banned from the publications of its members. Their codes include no exceptions for free political speech.

Since then the frontal Labour/NZ First/Green assault on free political speech in the EFA has rather overshadowed the bumbling logic of the ASA and even the BSA.

Leave your comments:

* Required fields. Your e-mail address will not be published on this site

You can use the following HTML tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>