[Marxism] Important civil liberties (flag-burning) victory in NZ

Philip Ferguson philip.ferguson at canterbury.ac.nz
Sun Jul 25 14:47:43 MDT 2004

Below is an article from the 'Dominion-Post', the daily paper in
Wellington (capital of NZ) about an important civil liberties victory
won here.  Paul, whose conviction is overturned is a member of the
editorial board of 'revolution' magazine and a leading figure in the
Anti-Capitalist Alliance here, so we are very happy indeed.

It's okay to burn the NZ flag 24 July 2004 
Dominion Post

A judge has upheld the right of a protester to burn a New Zealand flag
as freedom of expression. 

In a landmark case decided in the High Court at Wellington yesterday,
Justice France has overturned Paul Hopkinson's conviction for
dishonouring the flag during a protest at Parliament on March 10 last

The judge said that in the context of freedom of expression the term
dishonour had to be given the meaning of "vilify". A symbolic burning of
the flag was not enough, but Justice France would not speculate on what
extra action might come within that meaning. 

Hopkinson, a Porirua school teacher, was entitled to express himself and
burning the flag in the circumstances he did, did not justify limiting
his rights, she said. 

The flag was important but even in the United States where it was a
dominant symbol, a majority of Supreme Court judges had ruled the
criminal law should not be used to protect it. 

"The matter also needs to be considered against my perception that New
Zealand has reached a level of maturity in which staunch criticism is
regarded as acceptable," she said. 

"There may well be strong reactions to such criticism but there is an
acceptance of the ability to make it." 

Justice France allowed Hopkinson's appeal against his conviction in
Wellington District Court for destroying the flag with the intent of
dishonouring it. 

He had been fined $600 with $130 court costs. 

Hopkinson was one of the organisers of a protest against the Iraqi war
when Australian Prime Minister John Howard visited New Zealand. 

During the protest, the New Zealand and Australian flags were doused in
kerosene, held aloft and set alight. 

It was the first time the charge, under The Flags, Emblems and Names
Protection Act 1981, had been used. 

Freedom of expression was a right under the Bill of Rights Act. The
right did not over-ride other laws, but it should be limited only by
legal limits "demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society",
the judge said.

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