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Bloggers safe to blog on politics, but bumper stickers come off

Nov 8th, 2008 | By | Category: Featured Article, Features

BLOGGERS are safe to publish what they want today, Election Day – but political bumper stickers have to come off cars.

In the legal minefield of restrictions on last-minute election material – which also cover traditional media outlets – non-commercial internet websites such as NewsWire can keep their political content on line.

Everything else – newspapers, commercial news websites, radio stations, TV channels, billboards, leaflets, stickers and even the signage on candidates’ cars – is restricted by the Electoral and Broadcasting Acts, which require the media and others not to influence voters on polling day.

 The law protecting the public from influence keeps media away from normally newsworthy election-related items from midnight  last night and until the polls close at 7pm.

Section 4 of the 1989 Broadcasting Act requires broadcasters to make a reasonable effort to provide both sides of a story in a timely manner.  Stories prepared at the last minute risk an accusation of lack of balance – and a possible $20,000 fine under the Act.

 “There is a requirement to provide balance,” says Peter Northcote, of the Electoral Commission. The restrictions apply to print media as well.

 Early New Zealand elections were pretty dirty, according to Mr Northcote. 

“This is the day to get to the polling place without interference, without people plying us with booze or treats or telling us what to do or what not to do,” he says.

 “It’s meant to be the voter and their conscience: The day is too important to stuff it up.”

 In 2005 the Chief Electoral Office received about 350 complaints during the election period, of which 278 related to election advertising and campaigning by candidates and parties.

 Anna Hughes, the office’s communications adviser, says many complaints were about things that annoy voters, but were not offences.

 People objected to advertising content, the presence of scrutineers in polling places and party officials offering voters assistance to get to polling places.

NOTE: NewsWire played it safe today and removed campaign and candidate stories.

 

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is a multi-media journalist and Whitireia graduate specialising in video, audio, web 2.0, technology, photography, editing and Photoshop. After graduating from Whitireia, and a brief stint in teaching for the school, he moved on to working for Stuff.co.nz.
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