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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

Wairarapa Standard

Wairarapa Standard.

The Hon. J. McKenzie has introduced a Bill which he has declared will abolish libel. The hon. gentleman is one of those peculiarly-formed individuals who think that every forcibly-written article is libellous, and that newspapers should be merely small beer chroniclers. His panacea for the abolition of libel is a remarkable one. The Bill sets forth that all articles or letters published in newspapers are "privileged" if published without malice, and have at foot the names and addresses of the writers, but although "privileged," the writers, and proprietors of the papers they appear in are not "protected." Under such circumstances the "privilege" might also be dispensed with. If articles or letters are not signed with name and address as aforesaid, the proprietors are liable to a fine of not less than £5 and not more than £50. If any article or letter is not signed, such omission is to be taken as evidence of "express malice" in any legal proceedings. The Bill is ridiculous from beginning to end. It aims solely at banishing anonymity, as if the mere compulsion to put a name at the foot of each paragraph or letter in a newspaper would also abolish libel. Proprietors and publishers of newspapers are responsible now for everything that appears in the journals under their control, and they would be no more responsible if the articles were signed. To meet the wishes of those who wished to retain their anonymity, no doubt the publisher or printer's devil could sign anything that the editor and publisher would insert and take the responsibility of. The Hon. Mr. McKenzie should stick to his sheep, his noxious weeds, and his "little black devil." Newspapers are beyond his kin.