The Human Rights Commission welcomes new laws to address cyber-bullying and supports a review in a year’s time to check whether the objectives of the legislation are being met.
“The Harmful Digital Communications Act aims to strike the right balance between freedom of expression and our need as a community to challenge our bullying culture and protect people who are under attack,” said Chief Human Rights Commissioner David Rutherford.
“We support ongoing monitoring of the processes that are being introduced and a review of the Act in a year’s time to determine if its objectives are being met. The Commission has decades of experience balancing various freedoms and rights, particularly freedom of speech."
"There will always be some difficulty applying legal rules that require subjective interpretation but I am hopeful that the new processes that are being introduced will be applied in a sensible and pragmatic manner that strikes the correct balance between the competing rights and freedoms.”
He said Kiwis need to be open about New Zealand’s bullying culture if we are to ever challenge and change it.
“Replacing New Zealand’s bullying culture with a culture that says it is Not OK to bully and intimidate other people will not happen overnight but this is an important step,” said Mr Rutherford.
“All New Zealanders need to buy into changing our culture of violence: but it won’t happen unless all of us buy into it. Bullying isn’t just happening on the sidelines of sports games or in classrooms: it’s 2015 and we need to address the bullies who torment others on social media platforms and this law change is a good start.”
The Harmful Digital Communications Act introduces a range of measures to address damaging online communications and ensure perpetrators are held account for their actions.
“Kiwis need to understand that it is a basic human right to be free from bullying, violence and harassment. All of us, particularly our children, have a right to be safe. Bullying is a major human rights issue and one we need to talk about, address and challenge,” said Mr Rutherford.
“Balancing the rights to freedom of expression with the need to protect people – particularly vulnerable young people – is never easy but it is imperative if we are to strengthen the human rights of all New Zealanders.”