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3.1.08

Don’t Vote Labour site targeted, despite free speech 

Ooh, I love it. The usual Red technique of scaring people from having .
   Mr Andrew Moore has set up a website called Don’t Vote Labour. Whether you agree with Mr Moore or not, he has a to express his view. He is not endorsing any particular candidate: he just wants out of power.
   The (Prime TV, NZPA) are trying to make him feel bad for expressing his view, as far as I can tell. The stories are in the news today: Mr Moore, they say, will be investigated by the Electoral Commission as his site could be a breach of the Electoral Act 2007, which covers, inter alia, website communications. Judge for yourself and see if this is the gist of the articles, which are making out like something very terrible has taken place.
   Bollocks.
   Not only has Mr Moore not heard from the Electoral Commission, the Commission spokesman contacted by the NZPA suggests that no investigation has even taken place. Read his quotation carefully. Nothing has happened yet.
   Some pro-government probably stumbled on the website and decided to make life hard for Mr Moore and hoped to scare him into taking it down.
   The effect is that it has popularized it: the media have done all the marketing for him.
   We have to be very careful about reading these articles and whether something is in the past or future tense.
   I say that Mr Moore’s site does not even fit in to the requirements of an under s. 5 of the Act.
   Any prosecution would have to be under s. 5 (1) (a):

(1) In this Act, election advertisement—
   (a) means any form of words or graphics, or both, that can reasonably be regarded as doing 1 or more of the following:
      (i) encouraging or persuading voters to vote, or not to vote, for 1 or more specified parties or for 1 or more candidates or for any combination of such parties and candidates:


but if that were the be all and end all, subs. (2) would not exist.
   I reckon that the site is excepted. If it’s considered a news media internet site (a wider and wider definition these days), then it fits under s. 5 (2) (d):

(2) The following are not election advertisements: …
   (d) any editorial material, other than advertising material, published on a news media Internet site that is written by, or selected by or with the authority of, the editor or person responsible for the Internet site solely for the purpose of informing, enlightening, or entertaining readers:


or how about paragraph (g)?

   (g) the publication by an individual, on a non-commercial basis, on the Internet of his or her personal political views (being the kind of publication commonly known as a blog).

It’s not a blog but one can easily make an argument on why Parliament put that part in parentheses.
   I’d happily swear that Mr Moore, with his site, is doing no more and no less than what a regular blogger might, and he should not be penalized just for being smarter with his web design skills. He’s simply organized his opinions better so we can see access them rather than trawl through dozens of posts to get them all.
   For years I worked on websites and put up what might amount to blog entries in 2008—but I did them in good ol’ HTML and made them look like regular web pages because I don’t always think the blog æsthetic looks nice.
   Mr Moore shouldn’t be penalized on his tastes, either.
   And, let’s face it, if you manually typed in dontvotelabour.org.nz as I did, you are pretty sure what political position the site has taken. Or if you clicked on the link here. Mr Moore is not shoving his website down our throats—which makes it just like a blog that we have to access ourselves. This is not from a push medium like TV or print.
   I think any judge analysing the rationale of why words under s. 5 (2) (g) are parenthesized would come to a conclusion that Parliament meant for a wider definition and that those words are merely a guide.
   And before you think I am launching into Labour, I would have written a similar post defending a webmaster who set up a Don’t Vote National or Don’t Vote Greens website.
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Comments:
Thanks, Jack, for giving us some background on the law. Andrew Moore is a brave young man. He might be smart too!  
You’re welcome, Neal. I wish the media had done a better job of covering it. If an investigation had started, then by all means, they should cover it fairly, but editorializing and speculating are not their jobs. I take my hat off to Andrew Moore and I have a feeling he is ready and poised if he is investigated.  
Hi Jack, thanks for your support my friend. You mention that Prime TV and NZPA are trying to make me feel bad. What do you mean by Prime TV? We have a channel in NZ called "Prime" - or do you mean TVNZ & TV3?  
Andy, you are welcome. I do mean Prime TV—you made their telecast on the 5.30 p.m. news. The channel probably got the item via NZPA though, and kept its negative tone.  
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Entries from 2006 to the end of 2009 were done on the Blogger service. As of January 1, 2010, this blog has shifted to a Wordpress installation, with the latest posts here.
   With Blogger ceasing to support FTP publishing on May 1, I have decided to turn these older pages in to an archive, so you will no longer be able to enter comments. However, you can comment on entries posted after January 1, 2010.


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