Information around the decision to censor objectionable document

Mr. Wilson made this Official Information request to Office of Film and Literature Classification

The request was partially successful.

From: Mr. Wilson

Dear Office of Film and Literature Classification,

I am a citizen of New Zealand.

I'd like to request information around the decision to censor the Christchurch gunman's so-called manifesto, as linked:
- https://www.classificationoffice.govt.nz...

Specifically, if possible:
- How many people were involved in the decision to ban the document?
- Where any experts consulted before the decision was made? And if so, who and what is their field of expertise+qualifications?
- Did this office investigate, and decide to censor the document based on their own initiative, or where there complaints to the office, requesting for it's censorship? If so, how many complaints?

Generally, if possible:
- Any discussions, emails, meeting minutes, etc, involving the discussion of the document, and the decision to censor.

Please note: This request is being done via fyi.org.nz. As such, any answer provided will be publicly available on the website as is their process.

Yours faithfully,

Mr. Wilson

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From: Information Unit
Office of Film and Literature Classification

Dear Mr Wilson,
 
Thank you for your email requesting information.
 
The Office of Film and Literature Classification recently proactively
released documents and information relating to the decisions to classify
the so called 'manifesto' and the livestream video, which both relate to
the 15 March mosque attacks in Christchurch.
 
Click [1]here to view the covering letter which sets out some detail
around the process works, including peer review and making information
public. There is a PDF which you can download, containing documents and
emails relevant to this process.
 
I trust this satisfies your request, please feel free to come back to us
if you need anything further.
 
Sia
 
 
 

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From: Mr. Wilson

Dear Sia,

Thanks very much for your prompt response! Very appreciated.

The [1] here link in your reply isn't working for me. I think fyi.org.nz's system auto stripped the link out. I'll contact them about this, but in the meantime, would you be able to re-send it to me as a full url?

Just to clarify that this request is concerning the document censor only, not the video(although I appreciate that there will be overlap in the discussions)

Yours sincerely,

Mr. Wilson

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Oliver Lineham left an annotation ()

Hi,

Please click "show quoted sections" and look for the numbered list at the end. The link you are looking for is the first one.

Links in incoming messages get summarised at the end of the message. Unfortunately in this case the list has been hidden away along with the quoted section.

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From: Mr. Wilson

Dear Sia,

I got the link to work. Thanks again for the help. Although I've only reviewed it briefly, it seems to cover my requests.

Yours sincerely,

Mr. Wilson

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From: Information Unit
Office of Film and Literature Classification

Dear Mr Wilson,

That's great, thank you for letting us know.

Much appreciated.

Sia

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From: Mr. Wilson

Dear Sia,

Sorry! Could I have a few more questions, before we wrap this up?

One of my specific queries was around the expertise/qualifications of those involved in the decision(or those consulted).

While the released documents do list three of the meeting members by name, the rest are kept anonymous.

- Is it still possible to get at least a summary of their qualifications/fields of expertise, despite their anonymity?
- As I'm unable to check this, can you confirm that all are NZ citizens, and currently living in NZ?

Very much appreciate your time in this, sincerely,

Mr. Wilson

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From: Sia Aston
Office of Film and Literature Classification

Dear Mr Wilson,
 
Thank you for your request under the Official Information Act, seeking the
following:
- Is it still possible to get at least a summary of their
qualifications/fields of expertise, despite their anonymity?
- As I'm unable to check this, can you confirm that all are NZ citizens,
and currently living in NZ?
 
The Classification Unit consists of teams of Classification Advisors, each
supervised by a Senior Classification Advisor. All report to the Deputy
Chief Censor and the Chief Censor. 
 
All staff recruited by this Office are expected to have relevant
tertiary/other qualifications as well as a range of skills appropriate for
their role. Classification Advisors go through a tailored induction and
training process on site, and must adhere to clear policies and procedures
in carrying out their roles.
 
Employees of the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) are
members of New Zealand public service and follow the [1]Code of Conduct as
all public servants must. It is a small office of hard working staff
tasked with protecting New Zealanders from the effects of harmful media
content. The Office is located in Wellington, New Zealand.
 
Please note the OFLC is an independent Crown entity. Decisions to classify
material are made independently. Where expert opinion is required it is
sought, however no external opinion was required to inform the decisions
made relating to either the Christchurch Mosque Attack Livestream video,
or The Great Replacement. 
 
I trust this satisfies your request.
 
If you are not satisfied with how your request under the Official
Information Act has been dealt with, you have the right to complain to the
Ombudsman. Information about how to make a complaint is available at
[2]www.ombudsman.parliament.govt.nz or Freephone 0800 802602.
 
Kind regards,
 
Sia
 
 
 
 

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From: Mr. Wilson

Dear Sia,

Thanks again for the prompt response. I appreciate the hard work that the OFLC office has done (The proactive OIA release is great!). I appreciate that the office has the best of intentions.

But sorry, i do need to push for a little more exact details. Let me try to give a bit of context. Regardless of good intentions, what we have here is that a single, one hour meeting of six(or seven) individuals (four of whom are anonymous), have made a decision that has resulted in the criminalized half of NZ. There are 7 active reported criminal charges being pressed against NZ citizens. This includes minors that have been refused police diversion, which would result in a criminal record, one with a very sever punishment. It's reasonable to expect even more arrests and criminal records in the future.

Please note: I don't want to argue the merits of those cases, I'm merely trying to highlight that the decision has had very real, serious consequence within the community of ordinary New Zealanders. So when I'm asking for what types of qualifications, or expertise were involved in the decision making, it's not simply to be contentious. I can guess that the staff are expected to have relevant expertise, but we really do need to know what expertise these are. We cannot assume them. Only a handful of staff were involved in the decision, so what expertise and qualifications did they have? E.g. Are we talking the decision was made by lawyers? Any social/community expertise? Maybe some ex-cops? Is this mostly an academic decision, or is there at least someone drawing on their expertise from within the community? Etc, etc. These are the types of questions people want answers to. We can infer these by seeing the qualifications of those involved in the decision.

Also, given the impact to the community, you can understand that it's important to know that this decision was made by NZ citizens, who are currently living in NZ. (I understand the office is in Wellington, but staff can work remotely.)

Can I reiterate my questions?
- Is it still possible to get at least a summary of their qualifications/fields of expertise, despite their anonymity?
- Can you confirm that the staff who made the decision are all NZ citizens, who are currently living in NZ?

Yours sincerely,

Mr. Wilson

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From: Sia Aston
Office of Film and Literature Classification

Dear Mr Wilson,
 
I understand your query and would firstly like to assure you that the
decision process (in this case, as in others) was robust and included many
hours of examination and research. This is on top of the formal team
meetings that were recorded in some detail (the meetings you have seen
summaries of from the proactively released material).
 
I can also add the following. The staff of the Office of Film and
Literature Classification all live and work in Wellington New Zealand. 
 
Chief Censor, David Shanks and Deputy Chief Censor, Jared Mullen have
statutory responsibility for classification decisions. Please find details
on their qualifications and backgrounds. 
 
David Shanks, Chief Censor
 
David Shanks was appointed as New Zealand's Chief Censor in May 2017.
 
David holds LLB and BA qualifications from Otago university, along with an
LLM (First Class Honours) from Victoria University.
 
He has been qualified as a barrister and solicitor in NZ since 1990, and
has been the Chief Legal Adviser for agencies such as the State Services
Commission and the Ministry of Social Development.
 
He has led a number of high-profile inquiries and reviews while in the
public sector, and also held a variety of senior management positions.  He
also has extensive expertise in regulatory compliance, having held a
Directorship role in a private sector compliance tools and software
provider.     
 
Jared Mullen, Deputy Chief Censor
 
Jared Mullen is currently New Zealand's Deputy Chief Censor.  He was
appointed to this role in August 2015. 
 
Immediately prior to his appointment, Jared held senior project and policy
roles at the Ministry of Social Development.  As Associate DCE Social
Policy, he worked on the review of Child Youth and Family led by Dame
Paula Rebstock and had overall responsibility for family violence policy
and the re-write of social security legislation. 
 
While Deputy Secretary at the Ministry of Justice, Jared headed Justice's
criminal justice and public law policy teams as well as the legal and
treaty settlement teams.  Jared also led the Justice Sector recovery
response after the Christchurch earthquakes.
 
He has also had senior leadership roles at the Department of Internal
Affairs (as Director Office of the Chief Executive) and the Department of
Corrections (as General Manager Policy).
 
Jared has a Bachelor's degree majoring in Economics from the University of
Otago and began his public service career in economic and financial
forecasting at Statistics NZ and Inland Revenue.
 
 
 
Kind regards, 
 
Sia
 
 
 

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From: Mr. Wilson

Dear Sia,

Thanks again for the info. I'm still trying to piece together the entire picture of the decision process.

I already know David and Jared's qualifications (they have public LinkedIn's, which are linked to OFLC). Again, I was hoping to find out a bit more about the anonymous attendee's , to see what else (expertise/diversity/etc) was involved in the decision making.

Yours sincerely,

Mr. Wilson

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From: Sia Aston
Office of Film and Literature Classification

Dear Mr Wilson

This office has sought to make public a range of information, including detailed explanations for the classification decisions you are interested in. A proactive release of information was accompanied by a cover letter explaining the process of determining a classification.

We are declining to provide the educational backgrounds and country of birth, residency or ethnicity particulars of individual staff to protect their privacy.

We are therefore partly refusing this part of your request under section 9(2)(a) of the Act on the grounds that it is necessary to protect the privacy of natural persons. The names were redacted from the proactive disclosure of information for the same reason.

Kind regards,

Sia

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From: Mr. Wilson

Dear Sia,

Thanks once more for your reply.

I've been very careful to word my request to ask only for a summary(rather than specifics) of the expertise of those involved. I believe this should give the office plenty of leeway to provide the information in way that would protect the members privacy to a level which the office is comfortable with.

Under the circumstances, I also think my request is more than fair, and frankly, it's pretty disappointing that the office would reject it.

There are now 13(up from 7) individuals who are reportedly facing criminal charges under this decision. This number is growing by the week. I don't need to tell you the impact this is also having on their families, and and the wider NZ community. I certainly feel like these people have a right to know more about the process that criminalized them, and is destroying their lives.

Yours sincerely,

Mr. Wilson

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From: Sia Aston
Office of Film and Literature Classification

I am not in the office today but for anything urgent please call or text - 021677729

Media queries to: [email address]
The information contained in this email message is intended only for the addressee and does not necessarily represent the official view of the
Office of Film and Literature Classification. If you are not the intended recipient, please return this communication, destroy any copies of it, and do not use, disclose, copy or distribute any of the information contained within it.

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From: Sia Aston
Office of Film and Literature Classification

Hi Mr Wilson,

I'm afraid this is my last day with the office, but I have passed on your email to them team who will be in touch.

All the very best,

Sia

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From: Mr. Wilson

Dear Sia,

Oh, that's unfortunate for to hear (for me!). I very much appreciate how responsive you've been. Very helpful. Thank you, and all the best.

Yours sincerely,

Mr. Wilson

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From: Sia Aston
Office of Film and Literature Classification

Please contact Communications Manager Maggie Tait on [email address]

or contact - [email address]

I am no longer based in this office.
The information contained in this email message is intended only for the addressee and does not necessarily represent the official view of the
Office of Film and Literature Classification. If you are not the intended recipient, please return this communication, destroy any copies of it, and do not use, disclose, copy or distribute any of the information contained within it.

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From: Maggie Tait
Office of Film and Literature Classification


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Dear Mr Wilson,

 

Thank you for your follow up email. Sia has now moved onto her next
contract and I am the Communications Manager here.

 

While we understand your interest in more detailed information, we
maintain our decision to decline your request in order to respect the
privacy of our staff members.

 

We hope the detailed information supplied to you about our Chief and
Deputy Chief Censor, who have statutory responsibility for classification
decisions, and the more general information about staff in our small
office, is useful. We have also supplied you information about the
structure of our team, the Code of Conduct we are guided by, and how our
processes work.

 

Due to the high level of public interest in this decision we also took the
step of proactively publishing relevant background documents on our
website.

 

The role of this office is to classify publications according to the legal
criteria, and, as you know, in this case we determined that the
publication was objectionable. It is up to enforcement agencies to decide
whether to prosecute.

 

If you are not satisfied with how your request under the Official
Information Act has been dealt with, you have the right to complain to the
Ombudsman. Information about how to make a complaint is available at
[1]www.ombudsman.parliament.govt.nz or Freephone 0800 802602.

 

Warm regards

 

Maggie Tait

 

 

Maggie Tait | Communications Manager

Office of Film and Literature Classification
[2]OFLCicon072
Te Tari Whakarōpū Tukuata, Tuhituhinga

04 4716-782 |Mobile  027 346 5970
[3]www.classificationoffice.govt.nz

 

 

Follow us on [4]Facebook and [5]Twitter

 

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References

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From: Mr. Wilson

Dear Maggie,

Thanks for your reply.

To reiterate again that I very carefully asked for a summary that would not reveal personal details. These individuals are also drawing salaries averaging $100k at the expense of the NZ public. So it's disappointing that the office would take the position that the NZ public does not need to know anything about these individuals.

As a comparison with regards to transparency, Australia's classification office lists every one of their classification board members, (even temp's) and give a summary of their background information, and their role in the community.

I understand that this is the second time that OFLC has stated they won't release the info, so I'll leave it as it is for now. I'll take stock, and assess the next steps forward.

Yours sincerely,

Mr. Wilson

P.s. Congrats on your new role! All the best.

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From: Maggie Tait
Office of Film and Literature Classification

Hi Mr Wilson,
Thanks for your response. I won't get into the arguments again but just wanted to acknowledge your email.
Warm regards
Maggie

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Mr. Wilson left an annotation ()

Marking as partially successful. The information the OFLC has released has been quite useful, and it's quite commendable that this was released proactively. But certain aspects of the request have been refused which I considered to be very important.

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Things to do with this request

Anyone:
Office of Film and Literature Classification only: