Jan 12, 2008

Did The PM Raise The Case Of The Saudi Blogger With British PM?

According to reports on both television stations last night New Zealand Prime Minister Clark and British PM Gordon Brown discussed issues around electoral finance and the New Zealand Electoral Finance Act. As we know, this act deals with the ability of New Zealanders to speak freely in an election year. The other big issue around the world in the free speech area is Saudi Arabia's detention of its most famous blogger. The US Government has taken up the cause. It would be great if the UK and NZ Governments did the same. The meeting with Gordon Brown would have been a great opportunity to encourage this? Did this happen? We don't yet know, but it would be a good question to ask the PM.

We are not encouraged about the seriousness with which New Zealand views Saudi Arabia's actions. Poneke followed our advice and approached the MFAT media liaison person and Foreign Minister Winston Peters' press secretary. The results were not encouraging. Of course, if the Government were to this year fine, or send a blogger to jail for breaching the Electoral Finance Act, the fact that we had intervened over Fouad al-Farhan's case in Saudi Arabia might mean that the Government is laaying itself open to being accused of gross hypocrisy. Maybe the MFAT mandarins are extra cautious because of this. However, many of the rest of us here in new Zealand believe in freedom of expression. We want to government to act and take up this cause. And if we don't see real action soon we will expecting heads to start rolling.