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Press Council On Proposed Opinion Poll Legislation

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE CHAIRMAN SIR JOHN JEFFERIES ON BEHALF OF THE NEW ZEALAND PRESS COUNCIL

ELECTORAL AMENDMENT BILL (NO 2)- PROHIBITION on publishing opinion polls before election

The proposal of the above Bill is to make it an offence to publish the results of a public opinion poll for an election or by-election during the 28 day period before the election. It is significant that polling may continue uninhibited but the ban is on publication of the results to the public.

Part of the mandate of the Press Council as contained in its Constitution is to promote the freedom of the Press in New Zealand.

The Press Council views with grave concern this proposal which is now before the House of Representatives as an unwarranted incursion into freedom of the press and accordingly free expression for all New Zealanders and their right to be informed. The Press Council opposes any ban of length before election day.

At the very heart of democratic government is the notion of free expression and what makes this proposal all the more objectionable is that it not only curtails free expression but free expression in the electoral system itself by which the people choose who shall govern the country.

The Council would find it distasteful if the elected representatives attempted to control the democratic process by curtailing freedom of speech.

The Press Council is also of the opinion that the section of the Bill in question is contrary to s14 of the Bill of Rights Act which protects the right of New Zealanders to exchange information and opinion.

ENDS

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