Free speech under attack in the shadow of the Beehive – Speaker of House tells media how to do its job

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Press release

Disturbing images from Parliament, where protestors are being arrested, strike a frightening tone for Kiwis’ free speech, says Jonathan Ayling, Free Speech Union Spokesperson.

“Convoy 2022, which gathered on the lawn of Parliament in opposition to the Government’s vaccine mandates on Tuesday 8 February 2022 has been clearly out of line in many ways, and beyond the pale of free speech. Yet, their right to peacefully gather in front of their House of Representatives and use speech to make their case, however unpopular, should be preserved.

“Reports that Newstalk ZB’s senior political journalist, Barry Soper, was reprimanded by the Speaker of the House (Trevor Mallard) for speaking with protestors defies the very purpose of the media, and their crucial role in enabling free speech. Interference of this kind is a disgraceful attempt to undermine the independence of the media.“

Trevor Mallard
Trevor Mallard, Speaker of the House, is telling media how to do its job (well, his government does fund them after all…)

“Equally, comments by Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson calling on the police to ensure the law is enforced is a clear breach of section 16 of the Policing Act 2008.

“Ministers must not weigh in on the operational decisions of police in relation to enforcing the law and the maintenance of order. The Prime Minister – Jacinda Ardern – noted this was an operational matter.

“Several examples exist of previous protests which have also gathered on Parliament’s front lawn and camped, at times for many weeks.

“We look at these expressions of free speech, such as the SpringBok tour or Dame Whina Cooper’s Maori land rights hikoi, with great pride, now. The speech rights of those gathered now should be equally respected as those who gathered then.

“Grant Robertson’s illegal interference sets a disturbing precedent and puts the Police in an impossible position; Trevor Mallard’s decision to pressure media into not reporting on the events risks confirming the protestor’s greatest fears.

“As unpopular as they may be in and around Wellington, the current protesters are just as entitled to peacefully assemble and protest as any other New Zealanders.”

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