”The publication [Truth Weekender] is seen…as objectionable and detrimental to rehabilitation [of prisoners] and reducing reoffending. It does not encourage sentence compliance and normalises and supports criminal beliefs and attitudes, …
The ban ”is due to the negative effect that the sensationalised, and often inaccurate, reporting has on the good order of the prison.” Corrections Department media advisor (c.f. ref. 1)
The country’s most dangerous prisoners have been told they are no longer entitled to read New Zealand’s oldest weekly newspaper – a decision which will now go to the high court.
The Department of Corrections’ ruling was last night called ”extraordinary” by a top media law academic and is to become subject of a costly taxpayer-funded judicial review as one of New Zealand’s most prominent and litigious inmates prepares to challenge the decision.
On Monday Corrections bosses notified the Auckland-based publishers of Truth Weekender that their tabloid paper was banned from the maximum security Auckland Prison east division.
The paper has an extensive advertising section for prostitutes with photographs of near-naked females, but this was not what sparked the decision, rather the paper’s journalism was what upset authorities.
Source: Truth Banned From Auckland Prison – Fairfax Media
Story by Jonathan Marshall. 29 June, 2011
The ban ”is due to the negative effect that the sensationalised, and often inaccurate, reporting has on the good order of the prison,” Corrections’ media advisor, Rebecca Powell, wrote in an email to the paper’s head of news, Stephen Cook.
It is understood career criminal Arthur Taylor, 55, is preparing to take Corrections’ decision to the High Court for judicial review.
It is believed the articles Corrections are unhappy with relate to Taylor and his ongoing battles with the department over procedural issues.
In Ms Powell’s email to Truth Weekender she defended the ban, saying prisoners’ rights to access to news were not affected.
”Prisoners continue to have access to local and world news via all other newspapers, radio stations and free-to-air television.”
Corrections told Fairfax the decision based on ”legal advice” was ”not made lightly”.
”The publication is seen…as objectionable and detrimental to rehabilitation and reducing reoffending. It does not encourage sentence compliance and normalises and supports criminal beliefs and attitudes,” said a statement.
Canterbury University associate law professor, Ursula Cheer, has backed Taylor’s decision to seek a judge’s input on the ruling.
”This sounds rather extraordinary, if you ban this newspaper on these grounds then you would be looking to ban novels and movies, surely,” Ms Cheer said.
”Where would it end?”
Auckland Truth first hit shelves in 1887 and later became New Zealand Truth. The paper was sold by Fairfax in 2007 to businessman Dermott Malley and became Truth Weekender.
Assistant Ombudsman Quentin Ford said ”a prisoner has been in touch” concerned about the ban.
Mr Ford referred to the Corrections Act which says a prison manager is allowed to refuse permission for an inmate to keep items of property if there are considered ”objectionable” or if the item could ”interfere with the effective management” of a prison.
In December last year convicted murderer and Rimutaka Prison inmate Stephen Hudson went to the Wellington High Court to complain that Corrections bosses unlawfully destroyed his copy of Cosmopolitan magazine in 2008.
He said that decision breached his Bill of Rights.
Justice Joseph Williams ruled Corrections was wrong to destroy the items but he could not say whether the magazine was objectionable as there was no written decision from the department for him to examine the item had been destroyed without going through the proper processes.
1. The Films. Videoa, and Publications Classification Act 1993 states in Section 3 entitled “Meaning of Objectionable”:
S. 3(3) In detrmining, for the puposes of this Act, whether of not any publication (other than a publication to which sub-section (2) applies) is objectionable or should in accordance with 23(2) be given a classification other than objectionable, particular weight shall be given to the extent and degree to which, and the manner in which, the publication –
(c) exploits or dehumanises or demeans any person:
(d) promotes or encourages criminal acts or terrorism.