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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

Wanganui Herald

Wanganui Herald.

It did not require the above evidence to prove the Hon. John McKenzie's enmity towards the press of New Zealand. No doubt he has been roundly abused by different journals during the past few years for things he either never said or did, or which were worthy of praise. Because some papers slated him, he included the whole press of the colony as a pestiferous nuisance, which ought to be legislated, like the noxious weeds, against in so drastic a fashion as to ensure its destruction. But the man has not yet been born who can bring the people of any civilized country to consent to the strangling of a free press. Mr. McKenzie may have frequent causes for just indignation at the false charges made against him in the columns of the Opposition press of the colony, but that is no valid reason why the whole of the newspapers in it should be legislated out of existence. The Opposition in their places in Parliament make quite as unfounded charges against Mr. McKenzie and other Ministers, and in a far more offensive manner, despite the controlling influence of the Speaker, it would be therefore just as reasonable on the Minister for Land's part to bring in a Bill making it an offence punishable by fine and imprisonment to cast any reflections on the veracity, good breeding, or capacity of a Cabinet Minister. Seriously, Mr. McKenzie has fathered a Bill to amend the law relating to libel which, if passed, would gag the press of New Zealand, and place the remnants of it, which elected to try and struggle on under so mischievous a law, under the heel of the Government of the day. The whole trend of the Bill is to compel every newspaper writer, whether on the staff, or only an occasional contributor, to sign everything from his or her pen with the writer's full name and address, under a penalty of not less than fifty pounds. In short, the anonymity of the press is to be abolished, and no future "Junius" allowed to throw the search light of an undaunted love of freedom of criticism and truth upon the actions of those in high places. The Bill before us is one of the crudest attempts at amending an existing law we have ever perused, and we can hardly bring ourselves to believe that it is not an invention of some facetious quid nunc anxious to eclipse the famous Washing and Mangling Bill. What the press of New Zealand wants and will have sooner or later is the right to report the proceedings of all public bodies, and generally to enjoy the same privileges as those possessed by the press of the Mother Country.