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Internet gagging order by NZ Judge


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READER NOTICE: Adam is not interested in knowing the names of the accused, nor does he wish anyone commenting on this blog to breach Judge Harvey’s suppression order.

David Farrar posts on the decision by Judge Harvey to ban online comment on a case before him.

Adam had previously read items from Stuff and NZ Herald, which relate to this story.

Stuff reported as part of an item on this ruling:-

Judge David Harvey allowed their names and images to be published on television news bulletins and in newspapers, but would not allow them to be published on the internet.

Judge Harvey reportedly said that he was “concerned about someone Googling someone’s name and being able to access it later”. He was also “concerned about the viral effect of digital publication”.

Law Commission President Sir Geoffrey Palmer said today that the order would affect a commission study into name suppression.

“It will have to be taken into account … this is a very interesting development from the point of view of our project.”

He had never heard of such an order before, but suspected it was to do with the huge rise of “googling”, which jurors could potentially do at home on nights of the trial.

But they could access also comment and articles on the case which the suppression order does not appear to apply too, so why suppress just the names. this does not seem to make sense.

University of Canterbury law lecturer and media law expert associate professor Ursula Cheer told Radio New Zealand the judge’s restriction was “absolutely extraordinary”.

The NZ Herald ran a story as well from which is an extract below:-

Judge David Harvey said online media could not use the names, or publish images of the accused, to prevent the public searching for the information when the case comes to trial.

He said he was “concerned about someone Googling someone’s name and being able to access it later”.

He was also “concerned about the viral effect of digital publication”.

Judge Harvey ruled in Manukau District Court that it was OK to report the names and publish the images in print tomorrow or on tonight’s 6pm television news but not on news websites.

Does this apply to blogs?

To find out who the men are you can buy tomorrow’s New Zealand Herald.

To Adam’s mind this order raises a number of questions which Adam will seek to address after the next few paragraphs in this post.

Mr Farrar’s post is reproduced below in it’s entirety, Adam trusts that DPF will forgive the liberty:-

I’ve just been interviewed by Radio NZ on the ruling by Judge Harvey that media are allowed to report the names of two murder accused, but that online media can not. The interview should be on Morning Report tomorrow.

Is that in fact the case? Does the order apply to blogs? Are blogs news media? If defined as news media by this case, what does that mean?

Now Judge Harvey is not some fuddy duddy Judge who does not understand the Internet. He is in fact probably the most tech-savvy Judge we have, and he is the author of the main textbook on Internet law in NZ. I actually first met the Judge many years ago through Usenet, the Internet newsgroups.

Judge Harvey seems to be trying to do a middle course between total name supression and no name supression. It is an interesting concept, but one that does raise significant issues.

As far as I can tell he is not worried if potential jurors hear the name on the news tonight or in the newspaper tomorrow, but doesn’t want them to be able to Google the name (and I have just done Google searches on their names) once the trial starts. The issue of jurors doing research on defendeants on Google is a growing problem.

How is this going to stop jurors doing this?

However by banning the names online, this may lead to overseas blogs reporting the names deliberately. In fact overseas newspapers may also do so, as this ruling may be one of the first in the world – to apply only to Internet media.

What is the definition of media in this instance? What are the implications of such a definition? If blogs are news media how would we know there is a name suppression order?

It also gives local media a challenge. It is pretty obvious the NZ Herald has to remove the name from its web version of its stories. And TVNZ and Radio NZ can not have the names in their web stories. But does TVNZ and Radio NZ etc have to remove the names from the digital version of their audio and video files? They will not be picked up in Google, but are online. Also are there issues with live streaming of their broadcasts?

As noted below, does this restrict my content access via Press Reader?

Blogs may have some issues also, as commenters may have mentioned the names of accussed, but the blog owner may not be aware those names are the names that have been supressed. Oh it goes without saying I will be unimpressed if anyone mentions their names on this blog.

Precisely, how would Adam as a blog owner know?

I hear various media are looking to appeal the decision. It is certainly going to be fascinating either way for those of us interested in technology and media law.

This is not just an academic interest, but one with manifold implications.

So some summary questions.

For example:-

  1. Why do we have so much name suppression in New Zealand? Increasingly it seems to Adam that name suppression is the norm, unless you are Tony Veitch. All Blacks seem to get name suppression automatically.
  2. Why the internet only, I could go to the library and read past issues of the newspapers. Adam in his alter ego subscribes to an overseas service that provides him with digitised copies of many NZ and world newspapers, surely the Judge does not mean that Adam’s news service for which he pays good money is to be blocked. That would be an unconscionable infringement of my rights.
  3. How is a person to be aware of the Judge’s ruling? Not everyone watches the news, nor reads sites that relay the Judge’s warning – so how to ensure compliance.
  4. From the fact the Judge ruled this way, Adam can only assume the accused have a criminal record. Adam would record that he has no knowledge of who these people are. The only knowledge he has is that the Judge has issued a ruling saying no names are to be mentioned. Adam will further stipulate that he has no idea at all who these people are.

In countries other than NZ we do not see such blanket name suppression, so what are we afraid of here.

  1. Neal permalink
    27/08/2008 07:14

    Multiple blogs outside New Zealand are reporting that two of the accused are named xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (Names deleted by Adam). The third accused is apparently a teenager and was not named in local news reports. Of course (and I don’t say this flippantly), the accused are entitled to the presumption of innocence. FYI, I am an American traveling in Europe, far from the jurisdiction of this alleged-scholar bumpkin judge.

    I can’t believe Judge Harvey didn’t realize that his order would have exactly the opposite effect of the one he intended.


  2. 25/08/2008 22:39

    You know, I have to tell you, I really enjoy this blog and the insight from everyone who participates. I find it to be refreshing and very informative. I wish there were more blogs like it. Anyway, I felt it was about time I posted, Ive spent most of my time here just lurking and reading, but today for some reason I just felt compelled to say this.


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