Super-injunctions make an unwelcome appearance

One could be excused for feeling utterly confused by a court story in the Weekend Herald the Saturday before last, but none of the blame lies with the publication or its reporter.

It was bewildering because it related to an attempt to apply a total ban on publication of any details of the case to which it related. And it extended to reporting that the injunction against publication had even been sought.

That, in my book, is called a super-injunction. That is also how the Herald described it.

A super-injunction is an interim injunction which not only restrains publication of information which concerns the applicant and is said to be confidential or private, but also stops publicising or informing others of the existence of the order and the proceedings. That is the ‘super’ element.

Such an injunction was sought after Herald senior journalist Kim Knight contacted “a New Zealand institution” in relation to a story she was pursuing. The Weekend Herald said the plaintiffs were “alleging it [the Herald] was about to publish potentially defamatory allegations” about an overseas individual.

The Herald did not reveal the name of that individual for two reasons: First because it was covered by the application for an injunction and, secondly, because the individual alleging potential defamation had not even been named in court documents made available to Herald publisher NZME. The paper says it does not know his name, calling him a “mystery man”. Continue reading “Super-injunctions make an unwelcome appearance”

The media’s role in reporting on terrorism – Dr Gavin Ellis

Paper presented at the Australia & New Zealand

Supreme & Federal Court Judges’ Conference

Christchurch 23 January 2023


The actions and reactions of the New Zealand media in the wake of the Christchurch mosque attacks and subsequent court proceedings demonstrate the value of institutional cooperation and mutual trust.

 That conclusion is drawn from two papers written in conjunction with my colleague, Dr Denis Muller of Melbourne University.  The first examined New Zealand and overseas coverage of the attacks themselves in 2019.[1] The second, published in the New Zealand Law Journal over the latter part of last year, related to the sentencing of Brenton Harrison Tarrant in 2020.[2] There may be a third paper following a coronial hearing and Tarrant’s appeal against conviction and sentence.[3]

However, I need to start by briefly discussing the nature of terrorism itself. It is a violent crime where the victims are not the end, but the means to an end. They are the means by which a message can be sent to the public in a way that cannot be ignored. French journalist Paul Brousse in 1877 coined the phrase Propaganda par le fait – propaganda by the deed. Continue reading “The media’s role in reporting on terrorism – Dr Gavin Ellis”

Thank God for news media in a storm

The brave little shrubs are doing their valiant best to stay intact as a plant pot skids across our balcony in Cyclone Gabrielle’s first caress. With much worse yet to come I need to know what, where, and when.

I need information and, if I have to cut my way through a jungle of official sources, I will still be in the rain forest when Gabby takes me in her crushing embrace.

This, I tell myself, is precisely why we need news media. They draw together an overwhelming range of sources and condense information into a readily absorbed format. Then they keep updating and adding to the picture.

As I write this commentary on Monday, that picture is already changing. An hour ago, the rain was a fine drizzle and there was little wind. Now the rain is heavier, and the wind is coming in strong gusts. In another couple of hours I expect the freight train that Northland residents heard as Gabrielle passed through, and the driveway will be a cascade. Then the triangle of soil (that has already subsided by about 30 centimetres) may slide from the edge of the adjacent bush reserve into the stream below.

Continue reading “Thank God for news media in a storm”

Alarm bells must bring out disinformation fire fighters

The cancellation of two disinformation seminars this week amid threats and harassment should be ringing very loud alarm bells.

The seminars, organised by the Disinformation Project and communicated through the Science Media Centre, were to allow journalists to discuss disinformation with a range of experts. However, details of the media-only events in Auckland and Wellington somehow appeared on extremist social media channels. Traffic on those channels suggested the events could be gate crashed and they were cancelled as a safety precaution.

The director of The Disinformation Project, Kate Hannah, told Newsroom political reporter Marc Daalder she had received a death threat after the decision to cancel had been made but before legitimate attendees had been notified. Members of the project had been scheduled to brief journalists.

What is disturbing about this episode – the latest in a string of intimidating actions – is that the invitations were privately despatched to individuals via the Science Media Centre. Like the Disinformation Project itself, the SMC is a highly reputable organisation (whose advisory board I had the privilege of chairing). The fact that a screenshot of the invitation then appeared on Telegram fringe channels raised the ugly possibility that one of the potential invitees shared it with someone connected to those channels, or that their email accounts have been hacked or otherwise compromised. Continue reading “Alarm bells must bring out disinformation fire fighters”