General protection of freedom of expression
National laws or constitution protect Internet based freedom of expression
Yes. The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 protects the right to freedom of expression:6
Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.
New Zealand Courts have confirmed section 14 applies to “publication of information and opinions on the Internet.”7 General laws have been applied to the Internet in a variety of cases including name suppression8, fair use rights in domain names9, online business relationships, fraud and other aspects of criminal law10.
The right to freedom of expression is a negative right, meaning that government has a duty not to interfere with or place limitations on freedom of expression except if justified. Justified limitations are defined in the following way11:
… the rights and freedoms contained in this Bill of Rights may be subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
National laws therefore apply to Internet based expression and limitations must be lawful. New Zealand is a signatory to the ICCPR and reports regularly on the state of civil and political rights (including freedom of expression) to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. New Zealand has not yet reported on Internet related freedom of expression. In 2012 the Committee passed a resolution declaring that the same human rights which apply offline must apply online. International debate about the impact of the resolution on Internet policy is developing.12 New Zealand did not sign this resolution.13
6 Section 14, New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.
7 Slater v New Zealand Police  DCR 6; HC AK CRI 2010-404-379 (10 May 2011) White J, para .
9 For examples, see Oggi Advertising Limited v McKenzie  1 NZLR 631; New Zealand Post v Leng  3 NZLR 3 319 (HC), 667 (CA).
10 For an overview of the Internet and New Zealand law see Harvey, Judge David, www.internet.law.nz (Lexis Nexis, New Zealand, 3rd ed).
11 Above n 5, section 5.
12 See for example, Land, Molly, Toward an International Law of the Internet (November 19, 2012). Harvard International Law Journal, Vol. 54, 2013 (Forthcoming). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2177993
13 UN Human Rights Council, Resolution 20/8: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session20/A-HRC-20-2_en.pdf