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NZ First flyer offensive but not unlawful

Media Release 3 December 2003

NZ First flyer offensive but not unlawful

A circular distributed by NZ First to households in Christchurch and Auckland may be both offensive and misleading but not unlawful.

That is the assessment of the Human Rights Commission and follows the receipt of two complaints about the circular from members of the public. As a result the complaints will not be accepted for mediation.

Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres says it was clear that the material would be viewed as both offensive and insulting by many members of the public.

"I believe the circular is extremely misleading and inaccurate and irresponsibly targets vulnerable groups in New Zealand for political ends."

The complaints have been considered in line with provisions of the Human Rights Act in order to determine whether the material was likely to incite racial disharmony.

In considering a complaint of this nature the Commission takes into account the right to freedom of expression as provided in the Bill of Rights Act. The right to freedom of expression includes the ability to make statements that may be considered highly controversial or unpopular.

"Freedom of expression works both ways," Mr de Bres says. "It's important that New Zealanders have their say. If people are offended by the material let NZ First know by marking it Return to Sender and sending it back."

In order to safeguard freedom of expression, there is a high 'bar' before a complaint of inciting racial disharmony can be accepted for mediation. Other recent complaints of inciting racial disharmony, made against Paul Holmes and Bill English, also failed to reach the 'bar' required for mediation.

The Commission will be informing those people who make complaints, of our decision.

ENDS

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