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Censorship Government The Courts The Media News Your Rights Online

NZ Judge Bans Online Publishing of Accuseds' Names 219

Posted by timothy
from the a-bit-arbitrary dept.
The Master Moose writes "A judge in New Zealand has banned the press from reporting online the names of two men accused of murder. The names of the men will be allowed to be reported in print as well as through Television and Radio broadcast. It would seem he has taken this step to prevent someone 'googling' these peoples names in the future and finding them linked to a crime if found innocent."
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NZ Judge Bans Online Publishing of Accuseds' Names

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  • by Zarhan (415465) on Monday August 25, 2008 @04:09AM (#24734277)

    Folks might be crying censorship. Of course it's a band-aid to the sensationalism - but got any better ideas? The accusations will be on front pages of tabloids since MURDER SELLS. If these guys get cleared as not guilty, it will be on page 10 as a tiny note, if even that. Guess which one Google catches?

    Other option might be that everyone who makes news about the accusations should make similar headlines of the end of trial regardless of whether they were convicted or not...

  • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Monday August 25, 2008 @04:13AM (#24734311)

    Oh I agree, either ban the mainstream media from publishing that kind of thing altogether on the basis of "innocent until proven guilty" or require that they publish an innocent verdict in a case in the same manner that they publish that the person is accused.
    Think in terms of if they have 5 front page headlines and 3 2 page spreads about how someone is accused of killing little Maddie then when that person is found guilty or the charges dropped they have to have at least 5 front page headlines and 3 2 page spreads about how they're not accused in issues on the same days of the week and similar print numbers.

  • Re:Privacy of Courts (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HungryHobo (1314109) on Monday August 25, 2008 @04:23AM (#24734369)

    I agree, I'm just bothered by the fact that the other forms of media didn't suffer a similar ban, tabloids can bring on witch hunts more easily than the internet.

    "the public should be able to discover what their public officials are doing"
    I assume you mean if some public official is taken to court. Keep in mind that until they're found guiltly it must be assumed that they've done nothing wrong but give the accused the ability to waive their right to anonymity if they want media attention and have the right to contact a reporter be similar to the right to contact a lawyer.

  • Re:Privacy of Courts (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vidarh (309115) <vidar@hokstad.com> on Monday August 25, 2008 @04:35AM (#24734431) Homepage Journal
    There's nothing stopping restrictions that essentially make it legal only to publish the name in official proceedings, and make people jump to a tiny extra hoop to get at them. It doesn't need to be impossible to get at - you just need to prevent it from being shoved in peoples places.

    If I have to go to the courts website and dig around a little to find the court papers and download a document to see the name, you've effectively cut off 99.999% or whatever of the population from ever bothering. Why? Because most people don't care about the identity unless it happens to be a crime that happened in your local neighborhood.

    That still allows organizations and individuals to keep track of what the government does, but it cuts of a lot of the sensationalism that teaches people who otherwise couldn't give a shit to connect peoples names and faces with crimes before there's even been a trial.

  • Re:What's the point? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Rangataua (820853) on Monday August 25, 2008 @05:03AM (#24734551)
    My guess is that this is a experiment by the Judge in question to see what difference (if any) the ban will make (this is a high profile case in NZ).
  • by mcbridematt (544099) on Monday August 25, 2008 @05:04AM (#24734559) Homepage Journal
    In Australia a supposed pedophile case was recently thrown out by a judge who considered a fair trial with all the media attention impossible. Ever since judges have applied suppression orders to stop the names going out to the public.
  • Re:What's the point? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kjella (173770) on Monday August 25, 2008 @05:09AM (#24734577) Homepage

    If I google someone and find only blog gossip that is different from finding an article in the New York Times.

    Except you find the blogs with
    a) Link to the online article
    b) Reference to the offline article with the name

    In many ways that's actually worse, because most people won't bother to check the reference and just assume the blog is correct. The point here is that there are reliable sources beyond blogs with the name, and they are just trying to make it difficult to connect the dots. If no part of the press would report the name that'd at least make some sense...

  • by Joce640k (829181) on Monday August 25, 2008 @05:38AM (#24734713) Homepage

    ...is not to publish a single word about it when it happens.

    The WTC thing should have been banned from TV instead broadcasting of years of endless replays for the terrorists to be proud of.

    Without our sensationalist press, they probably wouldn't bother. What would be the point?

  • What are the names? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Peeteriz (821290) on Monday August 25, 2008 @06:16AM (#24734885)

    This article has made me curious - what are the full names of the accused? Slashdot, and any non-NZ posters are not bound by any such orders, and the names presumable are available on press, so I kindly ask of anyone who has seen the names to post them here on Slashdot. Just to make a point.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 25, 2008 @06:17AM (#24734889)
    Here, in Florida, in Hillsborough County, the sheriff's office has on their website an arrest inquiry page, which lists all people who've been arrested along with their photo. Now, my brother has been arrested, and never convicted of anything, and in spite of this, it's now nearly impossible for him to get a low-wage job. People, employers, they equate being arrested for something with guilt, not with a false accusation or an amateur cop. It doesn't really matter if other people post the info online, its the official record employers will look at. Arrest and charge records OUGHT NOT be public, they harm the innocent and have no effect on the guilty (because their conviction record would be there anyway). Our system is ruined.
  • by boyko.at.netqos (1024767) on Monday August 25, 2008 @08:23AM (#24735853)

    Indeed, it's actually quite interesting - there was a supression order against the "Uruowea 17" and originally names could NOT have been published. (As far as I can tell, faces still cannot be in those cases.)

    What was weird was that I was actually planning to hire Rongomai Bailey as a cameraman - because of the supression order, I made the decision to hire him AFTER he was arrested but before the suppresion order on his name was lifted.

    Although I believe him to be absolutely, 100% innocent of all charges, I consider myself lucky (because I'm living in the oh-so-free U.S.,) that he never came on the payroll. You end up with all sorts of problems when the T-word is bandied around.

  • Re:What's the point? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Monday August 25, 2008 @09:48AM (#24736991)

    You can't control Internet by gagging a few editors because the Internet is full of normal people blogging away about the things that interest them.

    Are your "normal people" also too stupid to understand why the judge's preference in this case might be guided by a well-informed sense of justice, and to acknowledge that he might actually be right? Do you really believe that everyone's right to know everything (whether or not it is actually true, and regardless of the practical implications) is far more important than an innocent person's right not to be tarnished for life for something they did not do?

    I, for one, am very glad that someone intimately familiar with both the justice system and the real world implications of the Internet has stopped to think about the balance between public oversight of the judicial system and open government on the one hand, and a private citizen's rights to privacy and due process on the other. Personally, I'm 100% with the judge on this one.

    If this doesn't work voluntarily, it may become necessary to anonymize court proceedings, so the defendant, witnesses, etc. are identified only by artificial names until the conclusion of a case (and the real names never released by the court in the event that the defendant is found not guilty). Frankly, I'd prefer that anyway, since I think it better serves the interests of justice while still keeping courts open and subject to a healthy level of oversight, but whether it is reasonable for a judge to start ordering this sort of thing unilaterally to make a point is a different question. Indeed, the extent of a lone judge's powers in cases like this, and to which they can or should lobby government for changes in the legal framework where their experience indicates it would be helpful, are all interesting questions.

    Anyway, more power to this judge. If nothing else, his actions will raise important philosophical and ethical questions that are long overdue being addressed in the Internet age.

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday August 25, 2008 @10:16AM (#24737333) Homepage Journal

    I don't see what legitimate basis exists for publishing the names or other identifying info of people who are merely accused. There are real costs to being publicly accused, without justification that the person is necessarily guilty.

    Public accusation of a crime should be equal to slander unless there's proof that the accused is actually guilty. Therefore publishing it in print should be libel.

    Publish the names of those found guilty. That's a fact. But until then, slamming everyone who's accused just puts a weapon into any accuser's hands, wreaking havoc on plenty of people who never did anything but draw the attention of a liar, or just someone reckless with the truth.

  • by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Monday August 25, 2008 @10:23AM (#24737409)

    Then what you're asking is a secret court.

    European countries did that prior to the USA. That's why ours is open court, and the accused has a right to cross-examine witnesses, along with knowing who they are.

    China has a closed court for their "political" branch.. yet the US allows documents like the Pentagon Papers to be published, with a Supreme Court ruling.

  • Re:What's the point? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bogtha (906264) on Monday August 25, 2008 @10:37AM (#24737663)

    And this is basically what happens when you make your local expert know-it-all -- a real judge -- with real powers. Common sense goes out the window, and super-conflated thesis-related academic mental masturbation takes over his every case.

    Holy shit, I never thought I'd see the day when a Slashdotter complained that a judge knows what he's talking about and that it would be better if he were clueless. All those awful technologically inane rulings that ignorant judges hand down come from "common sense". "Common sense" is a codeword people who don't have a clue use to justify being part of a decision they aren't qualified to make.

  • by sarysa (1089739) on Monday August 25, 2008 @12:54PM (#24739567)
    I would agree with this, except that they didn't expand the ban to the entire media, which is where they went wrong. Now I'm realistic, ultimately it's a tongue-in-cheek ban because they can't do anything about leaking to the international press, or some random New Zealander posting on the internet, but innocent peoples' lives are permanently destroyed when they're accused of a heinous crime and their name gets out. It's like they say, the accusation is on page 1, and the retraction is on page 36.

    Now CONVICTED criminals, that's another story.
  • by sydneyfong (410107) on Monday August 25, 2008 @03:00PM (#24741441) Homepage Journal

    There is a difference between having the names in the court papers, available on request, and the names on the headlines of major media outlets.

    Of course there's a certain gray area in between, but in this case it's quite clear cut that the public has no need to know the names of the accused...

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