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Minor party coalition calls for repeal of sedition

Media statement
Embargoed until 2.30pm
Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Minor party coalition calls for repeal of sedition law

United Future’s Peter Dunne, the Green Party’s Keith Locke, ACT’s Heather Roy and the Maori Party have today called for the repeal of sedition laws in New Zealand.

“In a country that champions itself as a free and fair democracy the existence of sedition laws is an unnecessary restraint on the political rights of New Zealanders,” said the MPs.

Sedition is simply defined as conduct or speech that incites disaffection against the government or state, although the legal understanding is often much broader.

“The problem we have with the law of sedition is that while it continues to exist in this country true freedom of expression is compromised.”

There have been cases in New Zealand’s past when seditious offences have been inappropriately used to impose political censorship.

These have included; the arrest of prominent Maori leadership during the Government’s invasion of Parihaka, the quelling of opposition to conscription in World War I, and convictions for those caught importing Communist literature in the 1920s.

“Defamation is no longer a crime in New Zealand, but defaming or libelling the Government remains a crime under the law of sedition. In a country which values the right to free speech and where the Government is elected as a servant of the people, it is hard to justify that anything spoken against either the Government or the state should be considered a crime.

“We support the recent Law Commission report which calls for the total repeal of the laws of sedition. Aspects of sedition – such as directly inciting a criminal act – are already offences defined elsewhere and covered within the Crimes Act. Therefore, retaining any part of this law is unnecessary, and impractical.

“It is our hope that the Government will adopt this initiative and push through legislation that will repeal this draconian relic of New Zealand law,” concluded the MPs.

ENDS

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