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Bail gags play into conspiracy theorist’s hands

The Free Speech Union says some of the strict bail conditions of former political party leader, activist, and conspiracy theorist William Desmond Te Kahika, known as Billy Te Kahika or Billy TK, are an ‘own goal’ limitation on free speech. It could grow his small following, and make many of them more zealous or even militant, says a spokesperson for the Union, Jordan Williams.

“For the likes of Billy TK and his supporters, conditions such as not being allowed to access the internet or possess any internet-capable device plays perfectly into their ‘deep state’ conspiratorial world-view. Instead of showing why Billy TK’s ideas are idiotic, the Government is stoking his support among communities that already don’t trust institutions and officialdom. Obvious censorship fuels the very views the Government is trying to counter.

“The right to communicate, to be able to hear why people protest is the very heart of our freedoms and political inheritance. It should be a primary concern even in times of national emergency and pandemic. Shutting down in-person protests, and those not wearing masks is one thing and is completely understandable. They show contempt for precautions that cannot work without near universal adherence. They raise important civil liberty questions, but cannot work without enforcement.

“But there is no evidence that shutting down YouTube channels and access to information is necessary, possible or even useful. Respect for freedom of speech should never be abandoned in a free and democratic society.

“If people justifiably can’t protest in the streets, we should be even more protective of their right to protest online. The conditions denying internet access are an afront to a vital democratic right. The Minister of Police should be asking the Police whether they asked for this. As a precedent the decision is appalling.”

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