Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dean Knight on WCC's suppression of free speech

Dean Knight examines the issue of Wellington City Council's attempt to silence the Vote With Both Eyes Open campaign, and agrees it is dodgy:

I'm sceptical about the role of a private agency in regulating this important public activity, and am disappointed the Council's documents seem to fail to make any mention of the Bill of Rights.
He goes on to cite a Canadian case where the Canadian Supreme Court overturned a bylaw forbidding billsticking on telephone polls as a disproportionate limit on free speech. I don't think we need to go that far; the key problem is that WCC through its contractor (which despite nominally being a commercial enterprise, is exercising an important public function, just like TV3 is when it is holding election debates) denies permission and wants to charge grassroots political advertising, while granting it and waiving charges for other non-profit or community groups - an unjustifiable distinction based on political content, the very thing they should be protecting. Unfortunately, actually challenging WCC in court is likely to cost too much and take too long to be worthwhile; which means in practice freedom of speech is only for the rich.