Jonathan Ayling
Free Speech Union

You’ll remember the work we’ve done to defend the rights of the feminist group Speak Up For Women (SUFW), which was de-platformed from speaking at council-owned venues about proposed amendments to the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act 1995. 

Now NZME (publishers of the NZ Herald newspaper, among others) has joined the de-platforming – again as a result of a few online activists complaining on Twitter.

We’re asking our supporters to email the editor of the NZ Herald, and his boss, to tell them to stop giving in to the online opinion police. A suggested email and contact details are copied at the end of this article

We backed SUFW to go to the High Court and managed to secure a strong precedent in defence of free speech in public venues. But the attacks on SUFW’s peaceful advocacy haven’t stopped. 

Last week we told you that the Advertising Standards Authority refused to uphold complaints against a billboard SUFW put up in central Wellington displaying the Oxford dictionary definition of the word ‘woman’.

After just 24hours, GO Media pulled down a billboard which displayed simply the dictionary definition of the word ‘woman’ along with the website address Photo: Twitter

The Authority said the advertisement did not reach the threshold to be likely to cause harm or serious or widespread offence. It also held that while some consumers were offended by the advertisement, SUFW, in the context of advocacy advertising, had the right to express its view on the definition of “woman”.

Armed with this ruling, SUFW proceeded to run an advertisement featuring the same message in the Otago Daily Times earlier this month. Naturally, the modern-day woke puritans on Twitter were outraged. How dare a newspaper feature advertising they disagree with: 


NZME / NZ Herald capitulate to Twitter mob

SUFW had arranged with NZME to publish the same advertisement in their newspapers across the country. But upon seeing the “backlash” (i.e the Twitter mob complaints) endured by the Otago Daily Times, NZME reneged!

SUFW successfully booked a nationwide advertising campaign which NZME had approved in the final form. But last week, NZME advised SUFW that it would not be publishing the advertisements, saying:

“We have this afternoon become aware of the significant backlash your advertising in the Otago Daily Times (ODT) has generated.”

“As you know, we had previously requested that your advertisements have the definition of “woman” removed, as we considered that these were potentially inflammatory, would compromise NZME’s reputation, and draw it into a debate in which it does not take a view from a commercial perspective. The response to your advertisement in the ODT confirms our views in this respect.”

This is getting ridiculous. It’s the Advertising Standards Authority’s job to protect us from truly inappropriate content, not NZME’s. Remember this is about people engaging on a Bill before Parliament (submissions close today) and a feminist group wanting to advertise in newspapers about the issue.  

Tell NZME to stop the censorship

NZME are worried about its reputation and the commercial ramifications of running advertisements the Twitterati do not like. They pulled the SUFW advert because they do not want any online ‘backlash’.

If NZME is guided by online complaints, rather than reason, advertising standards, and democracy, let’s give them the backlash they are trying to avoid.  Let’s give them good reason to say no to those who try to censor views they disagree with.

Send an email to NZME calling on them to stand up for free expression by publishing SUFW’s advertisements. 

The enemies of free speech hunt in packs, so its defenders need to band together too 

>> Email NZME <<

If you want to add or subtract from the template email we’ve written, please do. If the email hyperlink doesn’t connect to your email browser, feel free to copy and paste the text below.

We’re all in this together. Let’s keep newspapers out of deciding which ideas are or aren’t accepted as a society. We should each get to make that decision for ourselves. 

Thank you for your efforts to stand up to the cancel culture.

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NZ Herald Publishers Give in to Twitter Mob


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