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Justice Minister Simon Power has asked the Law Commission to review the adequacy of regulations around how the internet interacts with the justice system.
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“I’ve ordered this review because it’s imperative the law keeps pace with technology and that we have one set of rules for all news media,” Mr Power said.
"At the moment we've got two tracks – conventional media and the so-called 'new media' – intersecting with the justice system, and it's not sustainable.
The "new media" category includes the likes of bloggers, and professional journalists and regular citizens who use the likes of Twitter to report events in real-time.
“It’s a bit of a Wild West out there in cyberspace at the moment, because bloggers and online publishers are not subject to any form of regulation or professional or ethical standards," Mr Power said.
"Issues I’m concerned about include how trials can be prejudiced by information posted on websites and seen by jurors, real-time online streaming of court cases, breaches of court suppression orders, and re-publication of a libel.
“Because of the enormous scope of this whole issue, the terms of reference for the review have been tightly defined.”
It will focus on whether either of the two existing industry watchdogs – the Broadcasting Standards Authority and the Press Council - could provide a suitable vehicle for regulating unregulated forms of new media.
The review will deal with the following matters:
How to define ‘news media’ for the purposes of the law.
- Whether and to what extent the jurisdiction of the Broadcasting Standards
- Authority and/or the Press Council should be extended to cover currently unregulated news media, and if so what legislative changes would be required to achieve this.
- Whether existing criminal and civil remedies for wrongs such as defamation, harassment, breach of confidence, and privacy are effective in the new media environment, and if not whether alternative remedies are available.
- Mr Power says the Law Commission is the best vehicle to undertake the review because it reviewed the related matter of suppression laws, which the Government tightened last week.
The review will be led by Law Commissioner Professor John Burrows QC and senior research and policy adviser Cate Honore Brett.
Mr Power says the public will have the opportunity to have their say when the commission releases an issues paper by December next year.