Sunday, 18 January 2015

Social media users and journalists may find 2015 brings a definite atmospheric chill courtesy of a far-right Tasmanian Government

Not content with passing the Workplaces (Protection From Protesters) Bill 2014 15 of 2014 which only impacts on people who are actually in Tasmania, the Hodgman Coalition Government has turned its eye towards reforming the state’s defamation laws in such a way that bloggers, tweeters, Facebook aficionados and professional journalists all around Australia will be able to be sued by large corporations as a way of ending public scrutiny of these commercial entities.

Mercury News 11 January 2015:

NATIONAL groups representing Australia’s journalists and lawyers have vowed to take on the Tasmanian Government over its controversial new defamation laws.
The proposed laws will make Tasmania the only state in the country to allow companies to sue individuals for defamation to protect businesses from “dishonest campaigns”.
But journalists’ union federal secretary Christopher Warren says the laws will kill freedom of speech and make it impossible for journalists to do their job.
High-profile social media commentators across the country have labelled the laws “a national disgrace”.
Mr Warren said journalists who made corporations accountable for their actions would be the target of those trying to sue.
The laws could also affect anyone commenting on news stories on websites or in letters to the editor, or reporters filing in other states.
“Someone in Broome might write something about a corporation that may not operate in Tasmania but could be subject to being sued in Tasmania,” he said.
“It will have the impact of killing freedom of speech.”
Mr Warren said the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance would be raising its concerns with Tasmanian Attorney-General Vanessa Goodwin.
Australian Lawyers Alliance spokesman and Mercury columnist Greg Barns said his group was looking into whether the laws would be constitutional.
“It will just get used for SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) writs on your opponents just to shut them up,” he said.
Dr Goodwin yesterday told the Sunday Tasmanian the laws were not aimed at media organisations.
“While the detail is yet to be finalised, these changes aren’t and won’t be aimed at the media,” Dr Goodwin said.
“They are aimed at groups who deliberately spread misinformation about Tasmanian businesses, costing jobs.”
But Mr Warren, whose union represents various media professionals, said the laws would make Hobart the “defamation capital of Australia” because companies will use the state as the place to launch defamation suits.
Dr Goodwin said the changes would restore laws to Tasmania that existed before 2006.
Uniform national laws were enacted in 2006, in part to stop individuals from “jurisdiction shopping” and picking the state they felt was going to give them the greatest chance of winning or the greatest reward……

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