New Zealand repeals sedition law

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

At a time when many countries are tightening anti-terrorism legislation and discussing on whether to "crack-down" on freedom of speech, New Zealand has repealed its sedition law. The Crimes (Repeal of Seditious Offences) Amendment Bill was passed by the New Zealand Parliament by an overwhelming majority of 114 to 7.

Sedition is the crime of inciting insurrection against the state. New Zealand's sedition law criminalised speech intended to "bring into hatred or contempt" or "excite disaffection" against the monarch or the government or to incite or encourage "violence, lawlessness, or disorder". The law had been widely criticised following the conviction of Timothy Selwyn in 2006 - the first sedition prosecution in 75 years - and repeal had been recommended by the New Zealand Law Commission.

Minister of Justice Mark Burton criticised the law as an infringement on freedom of speech and a tool of political persecution - a view widely echoed by MPs from across the house. Green Party MP Keith Locke noted that "the roll-call of those charged is a roll call of our political heroes". However, New Zealand First MP Ron Mark advocated retaining the law in light of current fears about terrorism. New Zealand First was the only party to vote against the bill.

The bill repeals all seditious offences, and will come into effect on January 1, 2008.

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