Saturday, April 23, 2005

Sedition: Checking the facts

Last month, when framing an excellent article about sedition, Dog Biting Men reported a disturbing story:

according to one source, a man protesting at Prince Charles’ visit in Auckland last week was arrested on suspicion of, that’s right, sedition (just as the Monarchist League suggested). Which means that we have gone from no arrests for sedition in 80 years, to two arrests in 80-years-and-three-months. Thin end of the edge, anyone?

(It’s not clear whether the charges were dropped after the guy was released from holding cells, but in any case this demonstrates the following article's eery Cassandra-like prescience in warning of such vaguely defined laws being used to "harass political opponents or nuisances").

In an effort to confirm this, I lodged an Official Information Act request with the police, seeking information on whether anyone had been arrested for (or for suspicion of) sedition; their name, age, and occupation; and the circumstances for the arrest and the reason for the charge. Their response?

We advise that no one was arrested during the visit.

Presumably this should have an implicit "for sedition" tacked on the end of it, given the context of the question, otherwise it simply isn't true - but read that way, it's reassuring. That doesn't mean we should let the law stand though - even one case of it being applied to political speech is one too many.