Friday, May 01, 2015

The Electoral Commission hates freedom of speech

During the 2014 election campaign the Electoral Commission banned a satirical music video (and the song it related to) on the basis that it was an "election programme" and an "election advertisement" because it might persuade people to vote against the Prime Minister. The decision was ridiculous, and effectively outlawed virtually all political satire, either broadcast or written, and it was naturally overturned by the High Court last month as being inconsistent with the BORA-affirmed right to freedom of expression. But now, the Electoral Commission is challenging that ruling:

The Electoral Commission today filed papers with the Court of Appeal seeking to clarify the meaning of “election advertisement” for the purposes of the Electoral Act following two recent decisions of the High Court that appear to take different approaches to the legal interpretation of its meaning. The Commission is also seeking to clarify the meaning of “election programme” under the Broadcasting Act.

“Clarification is needed to ensure the Commission is able to provide advice and guidance to parties, candidates and third parties on their obligations in respect of electoral matters,” says Robert Peden, Chief Electoral Officer.

The inconsistency? Climate voter is an election advertisement while Planet Key isn't. But that's not an inconsistency, but recognising that satire is different from soliciting votes. And while the Electoral Commission needs to be able to provide clear advice to people on what is an election advertisement and what is not, its unclear why they couldn't simply get Crown Law to get them an opinion (and publish it) rather than threatening the public's freedom to satirise politicians again.