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‘Aroha’ Posters Should Be Legal

The furore over Weston-Frizzell’s pop art posters of Jacinda Ardern reveals the absurdity of election advertising laws, says the Free Speech Coalition.

Coalition spokesperson Dane Giraud says, “A debate over what counts as art and what counts as advertising is a messy one that cannot be tidily resolved by the Electoral Commission."

Current rules say that if you share material in any medium likely to persuade people to vote for (or not vote for) a particular candidate, then your speech is considered an election advertisement and is regulated.* You may be fined $10,000 if you don’t add a promoter statement and limit your spending to $13,200.”

“This is a dangerous restriction on political speech. The definition of an advertisement is so broad that it includes a handwritten protest sign or indeed, an artistic portrayal of the Prime Minister. In practice, the law applies unevenly, with speech getting a free pass until a litigious type decides to use the law to harass or silence particular activists.”

“The requirement for an ‘advertisement’ to include contact details and a physical address may also have a chilling effect on speech, because it opens people to abuse and intimidation.”

“Weston-Frizzell’s posters continue a long tradition of artistic political expression. To force them to place promoter statements on their art would set an oppressive precedent. New Zealanders should feel free to produce posters that praise or condemn politicians, whether it’s Jacinda Ardern or Todd Muller.”

*There is an arbitrary exception for news editorials and online comments.

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