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New Zealand Legislation on Censorship

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Chronological Listing of New Zealand Legislation on Censorship



Obscene Publications Act (U.K.) 1857

 

This U. K. Act provided a summary procedure whereby objectionable material, particularly “works written with the single purpose of corrupting the morals of youth, and of a nature calculated to shock the common feelings of decency in any well regulated mind”, could be destroyed.  Like most subsequent Acts it failed to define obscenity or indecency.  However Lord Chief Justice Sir Alexander Cockburn, in the 1868 case R. v. Hicklin, stated that “The test of obscenity is this – whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscene is to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences, and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall”.  (1868 LR 3QB 360).

 

 

Customs Act 1858

 

Section 32 stated that “If any goods enumerated or described in the following Table of Prohibitions shall be imported or brought into New Zealand, then and in every such case such goods shall be forfeited, and shall be destroyed or otherwise disposed of as the Commissioner may direct.  ... Indecent or obscene Prints, Paintings, Books, Cards, Lithographic or other Engravings, or other indecent or obscene articles”.

 

 

Vagrant Act 1866

 

“An Act to define and restrain Vagrancy”.  Section 4(4) stated that “Any person wilfully exposing to view in any street road thoroughfare highway or public place or who exposes or

causes to be exposed to view in the window or other part of any shop or other building situate in any street road thoroughfare highway or public place any obscene book print picture drawing or representation” shall be “deemed a rogue and vagabond within the meaning of

this Act and be liable to the punishment next hereinafter specified”.

 

 

Vagrant Act 1866 Amendment Act 1869

 

Section 4 prescribed penalties for “Any person who shall sing any obscene song or ballad or write or draw any indecent or obscene word figure or representation ... in any public street

thoroughfare or place or within the view or hearing of any person passing therein”.

 

 

Police Offences Act 1884

 

Prescribed penalties under Section 24(1) for any person who “Wilfully offers for sale or for distribution, or exhibits to public view in any public place, or who exposes or causes to be exposed to view in the window or other part of any shop or other building situate in any public place, any indecent, or obscene book, paper, writing, print, picture, drawing, or representation”;  and under Section 24(2) for any person who “Sings any obscene song or ballad, or writes or draws any indecent or obscene word, figure, or representation ... in any public place”.  Section 18 included in the definition of “public place” “Any public hall, theatre, or room in which any public concert, theatrical representation, or other public entertainment is being held or performed, or is taking place”.

 

 

Offensive Publications Act 1892

 

“An Act to suppress Offensive Publications”.  The first New Zealand legislation passed solely for censorship purposes.  Section 3 prescribed penalties for anyone “who exhibits to public view in any house, shop, or place, or who sells, offers, distributes, or shows any picture or printed or written matter which is of an indecent, immoral, or obscene nature, or which the Court shall be satisfied is intended to have an indecent, immoral, or obscene effect”.  The Act also covered what were considered to be “indecent” advertisements.

 

 

Criminal Code Act 1893

 

Section 139(1) set penalties for anyone who “(a) Publicly sells or exposes for public sale or to public view or distributes for public sale or to public view any obscene book or other printed or written matter, or any picture, photograph, model, or other object tending to corrupt morals;  or (b) Publicly exhibits any disgusting object or any indecent show”.

 

 

Post  Office Acts Amendment Act 1893

 

Section 3 allowed “any newspaper, packet, or parcel” which “contains, or is supposed to contain, any printed or written matter of any kind, or any print, photograph, lithograph, engraving, card, letter, circular, placard, handbill, or supplement, whether forming part of such newspaper, packet, or parcel or not, which is of an indecent, or immoral, or obscene nature, or which the Postmaster-General or Postmaster is satisfied has, or is likely to have, an indecent, immoral, prurient, or obscene effect”, to be opened and destroyed.

 

 

Offensive Publications Act Amendment Act 1894

 

Section 2 provided for an increased penalty in cases of gross offences under the main Act.

 

 

Post Office Act 1900

 

Section 29 permitted any postal packet which “contains or is supposed to contain any printed or written matter of any kind, or any enclosure of any kind, which is of a blasphemous, indecent, or immoral nature, or likely to have an indecent or immoral effect”, to be opened and destroyed.  Section 82(5)(c) prohibited the posting of any postal packet containing “any indecent or obscene print, painting, photograph, engraving, book, card, article, or representation of any kind”.

 

 

Offensive Publications Act 1905

 

Section 2 stated that mere ignorance of the nature of “an indecent, immoral, or obscene” publication is not a defence.

 

 

Offensive Publications Act 1906

 

Amended the Offensive Publications Act 1892 to permit premises to be searched for indecent literature.

 

 

Post Office Act Amendment Act 1906

 

Section 9 authorised the discontinuance of mail deliveries to anyone involved “(d.) In any fraudulent, obscene, immoral, or unlawful business or undertaking;  or (e.) In advertising in direct or indirect terms the treatment of diseases of the sexual organs”.

 

 

Crimes Act 1908

 

Section 157(1) set penalties for anyone who “(a) Publicly sells or exposes for public sale or to public view, or distributes for public sale or to public view, any obscene book or other printed or written matter, or any picture, photograph, model, or other object tending to corrupt morals;  or (b) Publicly exhibits any disgusting object or any indecent show”.

 

 

Police Offences Act 1908

 

Sections 40 and 43-48 consolidated the relevant sections of earlier Police Offences Acts and Offensive Publications Acts.

 

 

Quackery Prevention Act 1908

 

The Act contained provisions to combat the publication of misleading medical advertisements.

 

 

Indecent Publications Act 1910

 

“An Act to prohibit the Publication or Sale of Indecent Literature”.   The Act created various summary offences, and laid down the matters to which the Court was to have regard.  A new liberal feature was the relevance of literary and artistic merit.  However, ignorance of the character of a publication was not a defence.

 

 

Customs Act 1913

 

Section 46(1) stated that “It shall not be lawful to import into New Zealand any of the goods specified in the First Schedule hereto”.  The First Schedule, “Prohibited Imports”, included “All indecent documents within the meaning of the Indecent Publications Act, 1910, and all other indecent or obscene articles”.

 

 

Cinematograph-film Censorship Act 1916

 

“An Act to provide for the Censoring of Cinematograph-films”.  Section 4(3) directed the film censor not to approve any film “which, in the opinion of the censor, depicts any matter that is against public order and decency, or the exhibition of which for any other reason is, in the opinion of the censor, undesirable in the public interest”.

 

 

Cinematograph-film Censorship Amendment Act 1926

 

 

Police Offences Act 1927

 

Consolidated earlier Police Offences Acts.

 

 

Cinematograph Films Act 1928

 

“An Act to provide for the Censorship and Registration of Cinematograph-films, and for their Storage, Transport, and Projection;  to regulate the Business of the Renting and Exhibition of such Films for the Purpose of securing the Exhibition of a certain Proportion of British Films;  and to make other Provisions in relation to Cinematograph-films”.

 

 

Cinematograph Films Amendment Act 1929, 1934, 1953, 1956, 1960

 

 

Police Offences Amendment Act 1951

 

Section 5 authorised political censorship by establishing the offence of printing, publishing, selling, distributing or having in possession “any document, statement, advertisement, or other matter that incites, encourages, advises, or advocates violence, lawlessness, or disorder, or that expresses any seditious intention”.  The Act was introduced in response to the 1951 waterfront strike.

 

 

Indecent Publications Amendment Act 1954

 

Section 2 amended Section 5 of the Indecent Publications Act 1910, which dealt with factors to be taken into consideration “in determining whether any document or other matter is indecent within the meaning of this Act”.  Section 3 extended the definition of indecency to include a document which “unduly emphasizes matters of sex, horror, crime, cruelty, or violence”.  The Act was introduced in response to the recommendations of the 1954 Report of the Special Committee on Moral Delinquency in Children and Adolescents, known as the Mazengarb Report.

 

 

Indecent Publications Amendment Act 1958

 

Section 2 amended penalties prescribed in the Indecent Publications Act 1910.

 

 

Broadcasting Corporation Act 1961

 

Section 10(2)(a) required that “nothing is included in the programmes which offends against good taste or decency or is likely to incite to crime or to lead to disorder or to be offensive to public feeling”.

 

 

Cinematograph Films Act 1961

 

Replaced the Cinematograph Films Act 1928 and Amendments.

 

 

Cinematograph Films Amendment Act 1962, 1967, 1969, 1970

 

 

Crimes Act 1961

 

Section 124, “Distribution or exhibition of indecent matter”, replaced section 157 of the Crimes Act 1908, and set penalties for anyone who “(a) Sells, exposes for sale, or otherwise distributes to the public any indecent model or object;  or (b) Exhibits or presents in or within view of any place to which the public have or are permitted to have access any indecent object or indecent show or performance”.

 

 

Indecent Publications Amendment Act 1961

 

Section 2 included sound recordings in the definition of “indecent document” in the Indecent Publications Act 1910.

 

 

Indecent Publications Act 1963

 

“An Act to consolidate and amend certain enactments of the General Assembly relating to indecent publications”.  The Act set up the Indecent Publications Tribunal, and redefined “indecent” as including “describing, depicting, expressing, or otherwise dealing with matters of sex, horror, crime, cruelty, or violence in a manner that is injurious to the public good”.  The Act included liberal principles which the Tribunal is directed to follow – for example the literary or artistic merit of the publication, its dominant effect and the author’s honesty of purpose.

 

 

Indecent Publications Amendment Act 1972, 1977, 1982, 1983, 1986

 

 

Customs Act 1966

 

The First Schedule, “Prohibited Imports”, included “All documents within the meaning of the Indecent Publications Act 1963 that are indecent within the meaning of that Act;  and all other indecent or obscene articles”.

 

 

Broadcasting Authority Act 1968

 

Established the Broadcasting Authority to ensure (among other things) that “nothing is included in programmes which offends against good taste and decency or is likely to incite to crime or to lead to disorder or to be offensive to public feeling” (Section 10(1)(a)).

 

 

Race Relations Act 1971

 

The First Schedule of the Human Rights Commission Act 1977 inserted into the Race Relations Act 1971 a new Section 9A, “Racial Disharmony”, which placed restrictions on the publishing, broadcasting or making of public statements that are “threatening, abusive, or insulting”, and which are “likely to excite hostility or ill will against, or bring into contempt or ridicule, any group of persons in New Zealand on the ground of the colour, race, or ethnic or national origins of that group of persons”.

 

 

Broadcasting Act 1976

 

Required broadcasters to comply with “the observance of standards of good taste and decency”.

 

 

Cinematograph Films Act 1976

 

Replaced the Cinematograph Films Act 1961 and Amendments.  The intention of the Act was to liberalise film censorship.  References to “public order and decency” were replaced by “whether any film is or is not likely to be injurious to the public good”, and new criteria laid down that the censor was required to take into account (Section 26(2)).

 

 

Cinematograph Films Amendment Act 1977, 1980

 

 

Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977

 

Section 3(3) made criminal any non-exempt person who “sells or gives or otherwise supplies instruction in the use of any contraceptive to any child under the age of 16 years”.

 

 

Films Act 1983

 

“An Act to consolidate and review the law relating to the public exhibition of films, and to repeal the Cinematograph Films Act 1976 and its amendments”.

 

 

Films Amendment Act 1985, 1987, 1990

 

 

Video Recordings Act 1987

 

“An Act to make provision for the labelling of video recordings offered for sale or hire, and the determination of questions relating to the indecency of certain video recordings”.  Set up the Video Recordings Authority to censor pre-recorded video tapes.

 

 

Video Recordings Amendment Act 1990

 

 

Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993

 

“An Act to consolidate and amend the law relating to the censoring of films, videos, books, and other publications;  and to repeal the Indecent Publications Act 1968, the Films Act 1988, and the Video Recordings Act 1987”.

 

 

Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Amendment Act 1997, 1998, 1999, 2005, 2007, 2012

 

 

 

Sources

 

Cameron, Bruce James.  Censorship of books.  In McLintock, Alexander Hare (ed).  An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand.  Wellington, Government Printer, 1966, v. 1 p. 323-324.  http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/1966/censorship-of-books.

 

Censorship in New Zealand.  In Wikipedia.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_in_New_Zealand.

Christoffel, Paul.  Censored: a short history of censorship in New Zealand.  Wellington, Research Unit, Dept of Internal Affairs, 1989.  46 p.  (Monograph series no. 12).  http://www.dia.govt.nz/diawebsite.nsf/wpg_URL/Resource-material-Our-Research-and-Reports-Censored-A-Short-History-of-Censorship-in-New-Zealand

 

Clayworth, Peter.  History of censorship in New Zealand, 1850s to 1930s.  In Te Ara: the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.  http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/censorship/page-2.

 

New Zealand Legal Information Institute.  New Zealand Acts as Enacted (1841-2007).  http://www.nzlii.org/nz/legis/hist_act/.

 

Perry, Stuart.  The Indecent Publications Tribunal: a social experiment.  Christchurch, Whitcombe and Tombs, 1965.  169 p.


Watson, Chris & Shuker, Roy.  In the public good? censorship in New Zealand.  Palmerston North, Dunmore Press, 1998.  220 p.


 


January 2015