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CPU Pleased Court Of Appeal Judgement Confirmed


The New Zealand Section of the Commonwealth Press Union (CPU) has welcomed reconfirmation of a Court of Appeal decision concerning political discussion as acknowledgement of the importance of freedom of expression in New Zealand.

The Court of Appeal today confirmed an earlier decision to dismiss an appeal by former Prime Minister David Lange that a defence of qualified privilege be struck out in a defamation action against political commentator Joe Atkinson. The action concerns a column Mr Atkinson wrote in the October 1995 issue of North and South magazine.

The earlier Court of Appeal judgment was set aside by the Privy Council in 1999 following an Appeal by Mr Lange. The Privy Council, in its judgment, suggested that it may be useful for the Court of Appeal in New Zealand to look again at the arguments in the Lange case in light of a House of Lords decision in England in Reynolds v Times Newspapers Ltd that disallowed the particular defence now available in New Zealand. That decision created relevant new case law in the United Kingdom and had not been available for consideration in the earlier New Zealand judgments.

New Zealand Section Chairman Mr Richard Long, (Editor of the Dominion) said newspapers were pleased that the step forward in freedom of expression taken by the Court of Appeal had been confirmed by today's decision. "We are pleased that the Court of Appeal noted the differences that exist between the press in New Zealand and in the United Kingdom in making this decision" Mr Long said.

However, Mr Long said New Zealand's defamation laws remained too restrictive. The CPU supported a more open reporting regime like that of the United States, he said.

The CPU is a commonwealth-wide organisation of editors, journalists and publishers with a particular interest in press freedom matters. Membership of the CPU in New Zealand comprises all daily and Sunday newspaper editors and a large number of publishers.


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