By Simon O’Connor (National MP)

Only a few days ago I spoke in parliament about the continuing, and increasing, challenges to free speech in New Zealand. As I write, the Chief Censor (with I assume agreement of the Minister of Internal Affairs) has stopped the film Kashmir Files being released because some groups have claimed it to be offensive, hurtful, and phobic.

This move is wrong. It is censorship. It is yet another example of freedom of speech and expression being eroded. It also has all the hallmarks of the now well known ‘thugs veto’ (that is, a small but vocal group complain and authorities capitulate).

The film is, from what I have read, controversial. It strays into longstanding tensions between Hindus and Muslims; the portrayal between fact and fiction is problematic; as too the explicit support of PM Modi’s BJP Party. All of this raises questions, but it should not raise censorship. Imagine if we tried to ban the recent — and brilliant — film Belfast because Catholics or Protestants were upset! By the way, check out the film — its very good and quite moving.

I would add, if one’s perceptions, views, beliefs, understandings are so fragile that you require any challenge to it to be banned, then you may wish to re-think your views. What is happening here — and the basis on which those pushing for the ban — is also why I vocally oppose ‘hate speech laws’. It is simply an attempt to stop narratives which people don’t like and often to use their supposed vulnerable status to allow only views that support them, while simultaneously looking to stop anything that might challenge them.

The Chief Censor will do well to re-consider this move. By all means, increase the classification if warranted, but you don’t ban films of this nature.

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