Time to end election day blackout

Time to end election day blackout

Summary: Imagine being fined up to $20,000 for tweeting "Vote Labour" or "Down With John Key".

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Imagine being fined up to $20,000 for tweeting "Vote Labour" or "Down With John Key".

No, the ruling National Party hasn't turned New Zealand into a totalitarian state, it is just that the country has a crazy campaigning blackout on Polling Day.

This Saturday, until 7pm when the polls close, it will be unlawful for anyone to publish any messages that could be construed as campaigning.

Thus, the newspapers will be bereft of politics, and their websites won't have any fresh political content.

Television news won't be able to say much other than it is election day.

Bloggers cannot post fresh content either if it aims to influence voters. They have also been told that they must disable comments in case their readers make political statements.

This week, the organisers of the country's general election released its rules, which confirmed a hard-line stance on such matters, even including social media.

Yes, the law even bans politically motivated comments on Facebook and Twitter, something commentators say will be unenforceable.

Bloggers say they will obey the law, but there have been threats of rebellion from Facebook and Twitter users, and they do have a point.

It is nothing short of dictatorial to threaten fines of up to $20,000 for what is effectively free speech.

Social media sites are just the modern way of communicating with your friends.

Tweeting to your mates or posting it on Facebook that you have voted for such-and-such is no different from telling people in the pub.

Furthermore, who the hell is going to patrol Twitter and Facebook?

Don't the police and other authorities have better things to do?

And as blogger Russell Brown wisely noted, how do you disable comments on Facebook?

Certainly if the New Zealand Electoral Commission wishes to keep election day on Saturday solemn, it will have its work cut out.

Growing up in the UK, I also recall the final last-minute moments of campaigns often produced the best campaigning and commentary.

Indeed, The Sun newspaper warning on Election day in 1992 against a Neil Kinnock-led Labour government was a classic, with noted historical significance.

Kiwis should be allowed similar spicy commentary as a climax to an election campaign.

Topics: Government, Government AU, Social Enterprise

Darren Greenwood

About Darren Greenwood

Darren Greenwood has been in journalism, not all of it IT, since the days of typewriters and long before the web spun its way around the world.

Coming from Yorkshire, he can be blunt, and though having resided in New Zealand, as well as Australia, for quite some time, he insists he is not one of the 'sheeple!'

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Talkback

2 comments
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  • There's no clear answer to this. On one hand the blackout is meant to prevent last minute intrusive and persistent bombardment of voters, thus giving people to make up their own minds? On the other, why can't reasonable levels of campaigning (open debate) etc be permitted right up to polling day?

    I liked the blackout period. If a candidate hasn't made their point before the blackout then they haven't been doing their job. Similarly, if last minute campaigning changes a voters choice what caused that? Perhaps it was a last ditch false promise that wouldn't stand up to any scrutiny *IF* the voters had time to think it through.

    There's no clear answer, the blackout has it's merits but it shouldn't stop free and proper debate either.
    Scott W-ef9ad
  • For the general public, that sort of thing would be efficiently and effectively useless. Who can stop Joe or Jane Voter from saying "I voted Labor because Gillard is less of a b**** than Abbott" (or whatever).

    Of course, for the parties it probably can be done. After all, if the political leaders and parties can't organise their policies beforehand (well... in an ideal world), then they shouldn't start spruiking new policies made up on the spur of the moment to draw in voters (again, in an ideal world...).
    dmh_paul