Thursday, January 14, 2010

Has the Herald on Sunday breached name suppression?

Just got back from a week offline, and am still catching up with the news slowly. But from reading the Dom Post while I was away I learned that Cameron Slater ( who is extremely happy that he had 54,000 unique page views on his blog the other day) has been posting, in binary code on his blog, the name of a former MP who is up on charges of indecently assaulting a 13-year-old girl.

Now, I don't know much about binary code, so I quickly found out by other means who this person was, and then saw an article in the Herald from Carolyne Meng-Yee, who loves to write about celebrities - and I`d be surprised if she understands most of the laws surrounding suppression. From that article I could narrow this man's name down to two possibilities. He is a former MP, has a partner, he is not the father of the girl, and is a " thoroughly decent bloke". The girl's mother is this former MP's partner. But it was another sentence in that article that narrowed it down somewhat for me.

The Herald On Sunday has arguably published information that has led to the identity of the alleged offender, as it led with the man's former occupation with the implication that he has links to more than one political party. The article is also in a more accessible form than Slater's. In addition, another article on the same website the same week provided another piece to the jigsaw, which narrowed it down to one.

If a blogger provides clues that breach name suppression on one post, is that any worse than an online newspaper doing the same thing, but on different articles on different days? Particularly if both articles are available on the one page. Whatever, even if Slater posts clues to the multiple people who have suppression, as he has done, the Solicitor -General has said that he is not in contempt of court.

John Key has waded into the debate saying that Slater is not allowed to break a law he disagrees with. But the PM himself has advocated that it is fine to break the law if you want to smack your kids, whether you agree with the law or not.




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