This story comes with a warning: there are authorities who would much rather we were not writing this, let alone have you read it.It traverses areas they believe threaten “the maintenance of the law” in this country. It concerns a man they have gagged. You have probably heard of him, but you have never heard from him, and the state has deemed that as far as its concerned, thats the way it should be for the rest of his life.His name is Teina Pora.In November, his case will make history at the Privy Council, where his legal team, led by Jonathan Krebs and Ingrid Squire, will argue that he has been wrongly convicted of the 1992 rape and murder of Susan Burdett. It is likely to be the last criminal case from New Zealand that the London-based court will hear.When permission for the appeal was granted in January, Justice Minister Judith Collins said the decision showed the system was working “very well”. Really?This is a system which saw Pora spend 21 years in prison. A system in which his case lay neglected without anyone making an effort to question its myriad flaws until four years ago when private investigator Tim McKinnel took it upon himself to start digging. Its a system McKinnel, Krebs and Squire have battled, often without funding, to get to the Privy Council. A system with a lattice of secrets and stone-walling that have made their task – and the medias – frustrating, to say the least. And a system which has deemed that Pora should be denied one of the most basic human rights – freedom of speech.
Less than a generation ago, Canada was a world leader when it came to the fundamental democratic freedoms of assembly, speech and information.
In 1982, Canada adopted the Access to Information Act — making it one of the first countries to pass legislation recognizing the right of citizens to access information held by government, and as recently as 2002, Canada ranked among the top 5 most open and transparent countries when it came to respect for freedom of the press.
Fast-forward a decade, and we’ve become a true north suppressed and disparate — where unregistered civic demonstrations are inhibited and repressed, rebellious Internet activities are scrutinised and supervised, government scientists are hushed and muzzled, and public information is stalled and mired by bureaucratic firewalls.