02 February 2010

Attorney-General's hamfisted attempt to censor internet make SA look foolish

At the behest of Attorney-General Mr Michael Atkinson the South Australian Parliament has amended s116 of the Electoral Act to require that all comments made on the internet during state elections are accompanied by the maker's name and address(not post office box). Even though both major (and perhaps most minor parties) supported the move it has many of the trademarks of Mr Atkinson's hamfistedness.

The Advertiser's website Adelaide Now has led the chorus of protest , quite properly highlighting the appalling insensitivity of Mr Atkinson's comment that the Adelaide Now website was "not just a sewer of criminal defamation" but also "a sewer of identity theft and fraud". For video of his media conference see here .

Of other media comment Hendrik Gout on the InDaily website makes the point that while the Attorney has the power to pursue those who fall foul of his amendments the Labor Party is still able to accept anonymous donations.

The comparisons with China have already been made and no doubt will continue to be. How embarrassing to be a South Australian.

Update 3 February

AG Atkinson has backed down.

South Australia's Attorney-General Michael Atkinson admits he misjudged public opinion on the state's attempt to curb political comment on the internet.

Mr Atkinson says he will repeal a law which would have meant that anyone posting comment or blogs during an election period would have had to give their real name and postcode.

Opponents had branded the law an attack on freedom of speech, and Mr Atkinson says he listened to community concerns in his decision to overturn it.

Better late - and where freedom of expression is at issue a day is too late - than never.

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