The internet is often referred to as a “disruptive technology”. In the past, the term disruptive carried a negative connotation. Not today. Thanks to the internet and the read/write culture of the web, every citizen with an internet connection now has unprecedented access to information and, for the first time in human history, the ability to publish and exchange data with a potentially global audience.
This networked world is transforming nearly every facet of life. It presents major challenges – and opportunities – to the way governments, the judiciary, and businesses function.
This Issues Paper deals with a vital aspect of this process of transformation: the news media and whether, and how, it should be regulated in this digital world where anyone can break news and comment on public affairs.
The paper also addresses the broader issue of citizens exercising their free speech rights in the digital era, asking whether the laws which are designed to protect against speech abuses are fit for purpose.
We hope this paper, and the preliminary proposals it makes for reform, will be widely debated in New Zealand – in both traditional and new media fora. The issues it grapples with are vital to the health of our democracy. We look forward to hearing what the public thinks of our proposals.
Hon Sir Grant Hammond KNZM
President of the Law Commission