Press gagged at 'new media' seminar

The press were barred from reporting on certain aspects of a Legal Research Foundation seminar on new media regulation this week.

The seminar was held in Auckland in the same week as World Press Freedom Day (today), which, according to the United Nations, "celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom".

Chaired by foundation president Justice Raynor Asher, the seminar considered issues on the harm caused by cyberbullying, online harassment and defamation, and how internet-related media fit into the current regulatory model.

New Zealand has two media watchdogs.

The Broadcasting Standards Authority is responsible for what is broadcast live on television or radio and streamed live on the internet.

The Press Council, a voluntary opt-in industry-funded body, has jurisdiction over the print media.

But there is a gap for other "new" media practitioners such as bloggers, who aren't regulated by either authority but still generate factual content.

The Law Commission published a New Media Issues paper in December last year, in which it recommends setting up a new regulator to cover the gaps in the current regime.

Speakers at Tuesday's seminar included the Law Commission's Cate Brett and Professor John Burrows, Press Council chairman Barry Paterson, QC, Kiwiblog editor David Farrar and MediaWorks legal counsel Clare Bradley.

Executive director of internet safety company Netsafe, Martin Cocker, addressed the audience on defamation issues and barrister Steven Price discussed Law Commission initiatives concerning bloggers, tweeters and social media posters.

A panel and discussion, chaired by Judge David Harvey, followed.

Although media were invited to the seminar, NBR ONLINE was not allowed to report on who said what.

Immediately after Professor Burrows' opening address, on regulatory models being considered by the Law Commission, Justice Asher informed those present that the discussion was under "Chatham house rule".

This means people can use the information discussed, but they cannot reveal the identity of any speaker or participant.

The Law Commission expects to release its recommendations on regulatory models later this year.

Meanwhile, a review commissioned by the Australian government recommends two new bodies be established to deal with the "rapidly changing" media landscape.

It proposes a new statutory regulator to oversee media ownership, media content standards and Australian and local content.

The report also says an industry-led body to monitor journalistic standards should be set up.

The Australian government will make an official response to the recommendations later this year.  

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