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No Right Turn: A Shameful (Sedition) Verdict

No Right Turn:

A Shameful Verdict

Tim Selwyn has been found guilty of sedition. This is a shameful verdict, and a major step backwards for freedom of speech in this country. Punishing people for their words and intentions rather than their actions should require meeting a very high threshold, and one which our sedition law, with its vague references to "violence, disorder, and lawlessness" simply does not come close to. While superficially covering incitements to riot and such, historically this law has been used to cover such "incitements" as encouraging civil disobediance of unjust laws (for example, those relating to conscription, or Depression-era unemployment taxes), encouraging political opposition to government policy (for example, of Depression-era welfare policies which discriminated against unmarried workers), and selling or publishing communist literature which advocated global revolution and an end to capitalism at some undefined point in the future.

Directly inciting a riot may be "yelling 'fire' in a crowded theatre" - but none of this is. And neither were Selwyn's pamphlets. While encouraging "like-minded New Zealanders to take similar action of their own", no specific crime is being incited. Instead, it's just a strongly-worded call to action - and it should be protected as such.

By finding Selwyn guilty, the jury have effectively revived sedition in New Zealand, and opened the door to further prosecutions for what is effectively a political crime. And that is not something any of us should welcome.

I've been told that Selwyn will likely appeal to the High Court on BORA grounds, and we just have to hope he succeeds.


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