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Proposed amendment to enforce censorship with terrorism law

The Counter-Terrorism Acts (Designations and Control Orders) Amendment Bill proposes the use of anti-terrorism law against people who break censorship.

Breaking censorship in New Zealand includes watching (or even downloading without watching) things uncensored in most countries such as the Manhunt video game series, the film The Human Centipede 2, or a vast array of material easily obtainable online without any indication of their being censored.

NZ censorship law, the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993, is very broad. It criminalises anyone who creates, obtains, distributes, or possesses objectionable material – including electronically. They may be fined up to $10,000, and anyone who does so “knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that the publication is objectionable” may be imprisoned up to 14 years.

The most notable recent “objectionable material” cases were of people who shared part or all of Christchurch mosque attacker Brenton Tarrant’s livestream – a very low resolution video watched by tens of thousands of Kiwis and shared around the world by mainstream media. If the bill had been law at that time, anyone who watched this could have had anti-terrorist law applied to them, including severe restrictions on association, movement (such as house arrest), communications (such as use of the Internet), transactions (banking or not), and been subject to electronic monitoring.

This is a massive removal of civil liberties for a crime that may not hurt anyone, and is easily open to abuse by censors, without any further legislation needed to shut down someone’s rights.

Parliament is currently receiving submissions on the bill, ending 24 November 2022. The Free Speech Union made a submission opposing this expansion of a terrorism-related offence.

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