Freedom of speech is a vital pillar of robust pluralist democracies like Australia and New Zealand.
It is imperative that both individuals and organisations enjoy the liberty to express their thoughts, opinions, and ideas without the fear of censorship or retribution.
However, a recent incident in New Zealand has raised concern about the potential erosion of this crucial right within the country.
Family First NZ, an organisation dedicated to advocating for families in New Zealand, experienced a concerning setback when their full-page advertisement was unexpectedly cancelled by three separate media outlets, despite initially receiving approval.
The advertisement promoted a campaign asking the question “What is a Woman?”.
The campaign is designed to generate discussion about the truthful, common sense, and Biblical definition of “woman” in the lead up to the NZ election in October.
The campaign includes a petition and promotes the ordinary definition of “woman” to mean “adult, human female”.
After initially approving the advertisement, the media outlets, in succession, cancelled the advertisement.
One media outlet, Stuff, sent this email on the day the advertisement was meant to appear:
"Just writing to confirm that there was a late decision made yesterday to not run the ad in The Post and The Press.
It was decided that the campaign doesn’t align with the values of Stuff, due to the sensitive nature of the content”. [Emphasis added]
There were similar emails from the other media organisations, which had also previously approved the advertisements but now reversed their decisions.
It is of great concern that media outlets appear to have acted in concert to censor viewpoints that are commonplace throughout society and foundational to Christianity.
New Zealand, like Australia, is a signatory to the ICCPR.
The standards for the protection of free speech, open debate, and freedom of religious expression set out in that Covenant are extremely high.
A robust and healthy democracy embraces differing perspectives, as it encourages critical thinking, broadens horizons, and fosters innovation.
Bob McCoskrie, CEO of Family First NZ said:
We believe that this was as a result of communications between the publications up to the CEO level. It should concern all of us that newspaper editors are now banding together to censor advertisements that they disagree with. Where does this place their coverage of the political debate leading up to the General Election? What else are they censoring?
And the fact that they are working together is disturbing. Has the government funding of these media outlets spelt the end of independent civil discourse on controversial social issues? It appears so.
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