Police defend censorship of website
Back in August 2011 we wrote about the New Zealand Police censoring the Greencross site – a website arguing for the legalisation of marijuana for medical uses. The police claimed that the censorship was because the website was breaking the law, but refused to identify any law that was broken and have not laid any charges or applied for a court order to get the site closed. We said:
Whatever your opinion about using marijuana for medicinal purposes, it seems clear to us that there is nothing illegal about calling for a change in NZ's marijuana laws and that there is nothing illegal about the Greencross website. We are disturbed that the Police believe they have the power to shutdown a political website.
We followed up with the Police Commissioner, who forwarded our letter to Russell Gibson, District Commander of the Central District. His response is bizarre:
My responsibility is to enforce the law as devised by Parliament. It is neither appropriate nor helpful for me to become involved in a debate regarding political issues.
From my perspective I am satisfied that Detective Sergeant Paroli was working within the boundaries of the law and his motivation was simply to close down a site which assisted/encouraged offending against the Misuse of Drugs Act.
The police defence
The District Commander starts by saying he doesn't want to get involved in political issues – but that's exactly what his staff member has done by shutting down a political website.
He then tries to defend the action taken by his staff member by making a very weak link to the Misuse of Drugs Act. (We note, for the record, that the Act does not make it illegal to call for changes in New Zealand's drug laws). By doing so he completely ignores the fact that the police are not the right people to be making censorship decisions and trying to shut down freedom of expression in New Zealand.
If District Commander Russell Gibson doesn't want to get involved in political issues he should make it clear to this staff that censorship of political views is not part of their job description.
We stand by our original position that the police's attempt to get the Greencross website shut down was an inappropriate use of powers that they do not and should not have. We are disappointed that police leadership do not recognise this and have defended the actions of the officer involved.