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Dr Muriel Newman on muzzling media freedom

summarised by The Centrist

In Media freedom to be muzzled, Dr Muriel Newman writes that the Department of Internal Affairs made a 1 June announcement of 8 weeks of public consultation on their “Safer Online Services and Media Platforms” proposal.

Newman says the proposals were immediately described as ‘hate speech by the back door’ as new regulations will not only cover the New Zealand public, social media companies, on-line platforms, films, and gaming, but the mainstream media as well.

The DIA proposal involves the establishment of a new Government regulator with the power to control what can and cannot be discussed online by all media organisations that have an annual audience of more than 100,000 New Zealanders or a mailing list that reaches 25,000 or more subscribers.

Any non-compliance with Codes of Practice (to be developed) will be punished through fines of up to $200,000 and orders to take-down offending content. 

Newman says that the new regime smacks of jack-booted totalitarianism.

The regulator would also be “grounded in Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The new regulatory framework would aim to achieve outcomes that reflect Maori perspectives, needs, and aspirations.”

They expect “a significant Maori presence on the Board of the regulator” and recommend a “formal Maori advisory structure”. They also suggest Maori should be involved in creating codes of conduct that reflect cultural values and include cultural competency requirements.

Newman says that the dominance of a Maori influence in all regulations and legislation now produced by the Labour Government can be traced back to the powerful Office for Maori Crown Relations, that was established in 2018 in collaboration with Iwi Leaders. 

The Herald’s senior political journalist Audrey Young provided an insight into this powerful organisation last year, pointing out that the Minister had instructed it to operate “under the radar”. 

Newman notes their remit has now been expanded to cover any organisation connected to the government in any way. 

Submissions to the bilingual traffic sign debacle close on Friday 30 June – full details can be found HERE.

And the closing date for submissions on Labour’s new hate speech proposal is 31 July, with details found HERE.   

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