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Publicity over cyanide threats questioned

Publicity over cyanide threats questioned

Publicity over letters threatening action against New Zealand citizens are likely to do more harm than good, according to a Christchurch academic and civil liberties advocate.

David Small, a senior lecturer at the University of Canterbury, stands by his prediction two weeks ago (see Otago Daily Times 14/3/03 p.13) that there will be no significant demonstration of terrorist capability at noon today as threatened in letters sent to the NZ Herald.

See also: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0303/S00238.htm

He said that there is no evidence that the latest threats are any different from the usual hoaxes, and he questions the decision of law enforcement agencies to publicise them.

"The vast majority of these kinds of threats are hoaxes. Giving them publicity is not likely to assist in catching the perpetrators, but it is likely to reinforce their behaviour and encourage more people to issue these kinds of threats," he said.

Dr Small has questioned the move away from what appeared to be a policy of denying publicity to hoaxers unless such publicity would either help in their apprehension or alert the public to a genuine threat to their safety.

Dr Small pointed out that, even though they were found by the courts to act outside the law, state surveillance and law-enforcement agencies have recently been given significantly greater powers and resources.

He questioned whether the new approach of publicising threats to public safety was part of a plan to create a climate of public acceptance of greater powers for surveillance and law-enforcement agencies.

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