Friday, July 29, 2011

Why New Zealand agreed that disconnection violated international law

Back in April, the National government abused urgency to ram the final stages of a guilt by accusation copyright law - including the option of mandatory disconnection from the internet - through Parliament. Then, in June, it surprised us all by joining with other nations on the international stage to declare that such laws violated international law and basic human rights standards. Then, the next day, it denied it had approved any such declaration.

What was going on? The Creative Freedom Foundation attempted to get to the bottom of things using the Official Information Act, asking MFAT for documents and emails relating to the endorsement. MFAT naturally withheld most of the relevant data - it apparently being harmful to our international relations if the government is honest with its own citizens about what it is up to. But the document it did release shows that they were informed of the declaration by our permanent mission to the UN, who has given support in principle on the basis that

In line with your instructions this would appear consistent with our traditional backing of freedom of expression within the broad context of civil and political rights
Clearly, that wasn't overruled - and rightly so. But again, it leaves the government in an odd position of supporting "freedom of expression within the broad context of civil and political rights" abroad, but not at home. If it really supports those principles, then it needs to repeal this law. Otherwise, we're simply acting like hypocrites - a disaster for a small country pursuing a mana-based foreign policy like us.