Freedom of expression is defined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR):
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
New Zealand has its own Bill of Rights Act 1990. The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act places limits on the actions of those in government (including government departments, the judiciary, state-owned enterprises and local authorities) that interfere with the rights of individuals. The Bill of Rights Act also protects the rights of non-natural persons, for example, companies and incorporated societies.
Laws to be consistent with the Bill of Rights
All new legislation is examined to see if it is consistent with the rights and freedoms affirmed by the Bill of Rights Act. If there are any inconsistencies, then the government is required to provide a justification for the limits placed on these rights. The Attorney-General must report any inconsistencies with the Bill of Rights Act to Parliament when the legislation is introduced.
Courts able to enforce the Bill of Rights
If you believe that someone in government has interfered with your rights, you can apply to the courts to consider your claim that your rights have been breached. Please note that applying to the courts is not free of charge - with the exception of complaints about the right to freedom from discrimination. You can apply for legal aid to enable you to do this. The courts will take into account any justifications that the government might provide for limiting your rights. Sometimes an individual's rights must be balanced with the rights of others, for example, the right to a fair trial should be balanced with the right to privacy, or the right to manifest one's religious belief.
What are the rights?
- Life and the security of the person
- Democratic and civil rights
- Non-discrimination and minority rights
- Search, arrest, and detention
- Criminal procedure
- Right to justice
Life and Security of the Person
You have the right not to be
- deprived of life
- subjected to torture, cruel treatment or punishment
- subjected to medical or scientific experimentation.
You have the right to refuse medical treatment.
Democratic and Civil Rights
You have the right to
- freedom of expression
- freedom of peaceful assembly
- freedom of association
- freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief.
As a New Zealand citizen over 18 you have the right to vote and to be a Member of Parliament.