from the IT Countrey Justice blog site

There is an ambivalence in New Zealand towards freedom of expression. It is guaranteed in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and guarantees not only the expression of information – the outward flow – but also the receipt of information – the inward flow.

The ambivalence has been growing. Freedom of expression has been pushed to the margins. Although, with a few exceptions, the Government has not actively or outwardly restricted freedom of expression it has nevertheless narrowed the scope of what may be considered acceptable.

The narrowing of scope has been led by the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. Ms. Ardern is a trained communicator in that she holds a degree of Bachelor of Communication Studies (BCS) in politics and public relations.

Public relations is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an individual or an organization – in her case the Government – to the public in order to influence their perception. Ms. Ardern has done this very successfully. But in managing and disseminating the Government message she has been very careful to ensure that contrary views, criticism and contradiction are pushed to the sideline, so that those views are diminished and devalued and are of no account.

In this piece I trace the trajectory of the erosions of freedom of expression and the growth of ambivalence towards the expression of contrary opinions. I start with the Christchurch Call – perhaps a curious and non-contentious beginning but one that, as it has progressed, has chilling consequences for freedom of expression. I follow with the “sole source of truth” declaration and then embark upon an excursion into the validation of discrimination as an example of the blasé and contemptuous attitude of the Prime Minister to those who chose not to be vaccinated and who, by implication, express a contrarian perspective. I shall conclude with the latest example of Ms. Ardern’s erosion of the freedom of expression when she addressed no lesser a forum than the General Assembly of the United Nations.

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