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Justice Minister, meet the internet

12 December 2018

Apparently, Justice Minister Andrew Little is somewhat upset and maybe even a tad surprised that a name suppression order issued by the New Zealand courts has been ignored by the British media.

Whilst such suppression orders carry stiff penalties for NZ media if breached, there is no such penalty available, should the suppressed information be published by someone outside the country. That is exactly what's happened in this case.

The sensitive information is related to the case of English tourist Grace Millane who was sadly murdered a week or so ago.

The name of the accused and other details which were ordered suppressed by the court have since been published by UK newspapers and, since such newspapers are now easily accessible to NZers via the Net, that information is effectively not suppressed at all.

I'm sorry Mr Little, this is just how the internet works.

With a huge percentage of Kiwis now reading online tabloids such as The Daily Mail, "the cat is out of the box", so to speak.

Perhaps it's time for countries to establish a "suppression treaty" or something so that situations like this can be avoided in future.

Given how many other treaties we have so as to ensure consistency and cross-border enforcement of laws, surely such an arrangement is long-overdue in this age of the Net?

Instead of focusing on how better our political overlords can spy on us within a complex legal framework, how about they address the issue of court-ordered suppression in a way that ensures that when one country within the treaty-group orders information to be kept from the public's eye, *all* countries are willing and able to enforce that diktat?

If this is not done then the issuance of such suppression orders is just a joke of the highest order.

How is it fair and just that a Kiwi who might pass on suppressed information for no reason other than "it came up in a conversation" can be heavily fined or thrown in jail for that act -- yet a UK tabloid can openly publish the same info and make money out of it with complete immunity?

Our politicians and lawmakers spent huge amounts of time and sums of money to overhaul our copyright laws so as to account for the arrival of the internet -- how about they do the same for other aspects of our law? Or is it that protecting the profits of rich and influential music and movie publishers and is more important than protecting the concepts of justice?

Either we give up entirely on the concept of suppression orders -- or we get our fingers out and address the glaring hole that is the ability of foreign publishers to ignore those orders and publish with impunity.

What's it to be?

What do readers think and/or suggest?

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