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Electoral Commission Censors Musician

Electoral Commission Censors Musician and Undermines Freedom of Speech

The Electoral Commission has told Darren Watson, a musician, to stop selling or promoting his satirical song "Planet Key" or he may face prosecution.

The song and music video satirises John Key and members of the National Government in a humorous way. The music video has had more than 80,000 hits on video websites, including Vimeo and YouTube http://vimeo.com/102441715

"This is simply a satirical song. I wrote it at home and it's the musical expression of my own personal views", says Mr Watson. Jeremy Jones of Propeller Motion, the maker of the video, says he was motivated to make the amusing Monty Python-style animated clip after hearing the song and seeing an opportunity to work on a creative project with Mr Watson. Neither of the men received any payment for producing the work, but have sold the song through i-Tunes to recoup some of their costs.

However, the Electoral Commission has not seen the funny side and Mr Watson has received a letter saying that the Commission considers the song and associated video are "election advertisements" under the Electoral Act and "election programmes" under the Broadcasting Act.

The Electoral Commission is also threatening that the sale of the song through i-Tunes without a promoter statement is "an apparent breach of section 204F of the Electoral Act", which is an illegal practice punishable by a fine of up to $10,000.

"I object to the suggestion that I am some sort of political promoter. I am a musician and I feel very strongly about this kind of censorship", says Mr Watson. "I believe in artistic freedom."

The Commission has told TV and radio stations they should not broadcast the song outside of news programmes. The prohibition on broadcasting the song applies as a permanent ban, and not just at election time.

Lawyer for Mr Watson and Mr Jones, Wendy Aldred, says she has asked the Electoral Commission to reconsider its opinion, saying the Commission's letter is incorrect in its approach to the law, fails to take into account Mr Watson's right to freedom of expression under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, and is heavy-handed.

If the Electoral Commission does not revise its opinion the matter is likely to go to Court.


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