Censorship of gang’s speech certain to make problem worse, not better

by Jonathan Ayling

The National Party's policy to ban gang insignia and criminalise the posting of gang-related content online defies the very essence of free speech, and is certain to make the issue of gang violence and harm worse, not better, says Dane Giraud, spokesperson for the Free Speech Union

“The National Party should have greater respect for the fundamental freedoms of Kiwi citizens, even gang members. Censorship simply isn't a solution to gang violence and harm.

“Free speech does us a favour when it draws out troublesome factions of society into the sunlight, where they are exposed. It is already very difficult to identify who is still associated with a gang, and who is no longer a member. This policy will just make it harder for the Police to identity those involved in organized crime.

“The proposed policy raises far more questions than it does answers. For example, how will the National Party define a gang? Beyond specific insignia that we see on patches, most gangs identify with a colour. Is the National Party also proposing to ban certain colours? In a country where displaying a terrorist flag is legal, why should wearing a gag patch?

“Censorship generally tends to be absurd, but in this case, it is guaranteed that we will see overreach which will breach human rights and only work to unify gangs and entrench opposition to law enforcement.

“Policy like this sets a disturbing precedent. Without a clear definition for a gang, this policy could encompass groups more political in nature. This is a door to censorship Kiwis do not want opened.”