Simon Power today announced a Law Commission review of the regulations around how the internet interacts with the justice system.
It’s timely to have a public discussion.
The Law Commission will treat the issue seriously, There are good people leading it. They have more than a year to report. But there are some big issues to discuss and I worry that they may not be able to if the terms of reference are too narrow.
If this inquiry is all about shutting down the likes of Cameron Slater (aka Whaleoil) who delights in flouting the name suppression laws then it’ll be a great shame and will create more problems than it tries to solve.
Slater regularly posts the names of people accused of various crimes which he deems to be not worthy of name suppression. He’s on a crusade. He describes himself as a citizen journalist. Others have more colourful names for him.
I don’t like his style. I try not to read his blog. Though sometimes I do. But I’d hate to see an inquiry happening just because of him.
I do believe there’s an important discussion to be had about one set of standards that applies across different media. But it’s not just about new media vs conventional media.
As David Farrar at Kiwiblog pointed out this afternoon one set of rules for conventional media (print and broadcast media) does not exist now. So the issues are complex.
People’s attitudes and behaviours are changing rapidly with the rise of new media. The discussions and debate around copyright and filesharing have shown this.
We need good law. And we need it to reflect where people are at.
Here’s what Simon Power said in question time in Parliament today. I’m looking forward to contributing to the review.
3. PAUL QUINN (National) to the Minister of Justice: Has he recently referred any projects to the Law Commission; if so, what?
Hon SIMON POWER (Minister of Justice) : Yes; earlier today I asked the Law Commission to undertake a review regarding interaction between the Internet and the justice system. It is my view that the law must keep pace with technology, and that we must have one set of rules and ethical standards for all news media. It is my view that that may not be the case at present.
Paul Quinn: Why has the Minister referred this review to the Law Commission?
Hon SIMON POWER: I am concerned that the lack of regulation or professional or ethical standards for bloggers and online publishers has created a bit of a Wild West in cyberspace. The specific issues I am concerned about include how trials can be potentially prejudiced by information posted on websites and seen by jurors, real-time online streaming of court cases, breaches of court suppression orders, and republication of a libel.