Monday, March 25, 2019


The Chief Censor has declared the Christchurch terrorist's manifesto objectionable. Its not an especially surprising decision: the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 specifies whether a publication "promotes or encourages criminal acts or acts of terrorism" as a possible grounds for such a classification, and while it must be balanced against various other factors such as dominant effect, impact, scientific, literary or artistic merit, or intended audience, none of those present a particularly compelling reason for rejecting their conclusion. And its not a novel interpretation: the law has been used to classify ISIS material as "objectionable" in the past.

That said, I don't think this is the minimum restriction on freedom of speech necessary (as required by the BORA), and the Chief Censor recognises that it may interfere with the ability of journalists to do their job in reporting on this event. Graeme Edgeler has suggested restricting it to journalists subject to the jurisdiction of the BSA or NZMC, and that seems to be a far better solution. But if anyone wants that to happen, they can always seek a review, and then (if necessary) an appeal. The outcome will likely be a valuable clarification on the extent of freedom of speech, whatever way it goes.