Poll Dancer by Keith Ng

It makes you think.

I got a letter today from Victoria University's lawyer saying that:

We understand that you are the primary contact person for the Aotearoa Student Press Association and further that you provided the confidential material which had been supplied to Salient to the other members of ASPA, notwithstanding the injunction which has been issued.

The supply of that information to other members of ASPA is clearly a breach of the interim injunction and potentially contempt of Court. We seek an immediate undertaking on behalf of ASPA and its member organisations that the information will not be published by any of them so long as the interim injunction remains in place.

Should this undertaking not be forthcoming immediately, we will seek an extension of the interim injunction to cover ASPA and its member organisations. In seeking to extend the interim injunction we will be obliged to advise the Court that you had the opportunity to provide us with an undertaking not to publish the material but declined to do so.

Unless we have a satisfactory response from you by 9.00am tomorrow, Tuesday 4 October 2005, we will proceed to seek further High Court Orders.

The letter is dated 3 October. I called the courier, who informed me that the letter was delivered at 8:51am on today, 4 October.

For the legalese-adverse, that third paragraph was a threat to put a gag order on ASPA and all the student magazines that are members of ASPA. Here's a list of all 13, for the University's convenience (I like how it looks so long in a column):

Caclin (Lincoln)
Canta (Canterbury)
Chaff (Massey, Palmerston North)
Craccum (Auckland)
Crew (UCOL)
Critic (Otago)
Debate (AUT)
gYRo (Otago Polytech)
InUnison (Unitec)
Magneto (Massey, Wellington)
Nexus (Waikato)
Salient (Victoria)
Satellite (Massey, Albany)

So, to rephrase, Victoria University threatened to put a gag order on every single student magazine in New Zealand. (Slight hyperbole. I suspect there might be a few polytech magazines that are not part of ASPA.)

I'll leave the comment to others.

But I do feel like repeating myself.

Victoria University threatened to put a gag order on every single student magazine in New Zealand.

Perhaps Otago should replace "Get Over It!" with "We won't gag you!"?

I'm also a bit peeved that they are trying to say that we've breached the terms of our injunction by putting the story-that-we-can't-mention on the Aotearoa Student Press Association newswire.

We put the story on the ASPA newswire on Thursday, as we always do, because that's when everyone goes to print. Vic filed the injunction, ex parte (i.e. they didn't tell us), on Friday, and it wasn't served to us until we asked for it and went and got it ourselves on Sunday evening. If we hadn't taken the initiative, it would have been served to us on Monday morning, four or five hours before we were due in court.

When the article was placed on the newswire, the injunction was not in effect, the injunction had not been granted, the injunction had not been filed, we weren't notified that Vic even wanted an injunction.

We were not obligated to and we did not keep the article under wraps on the basis of "gee-maybe-Vic-will-file-an-injunction-at-some-point-in-the-future-but-just-won't-tell-us-because-they-want-to-keep-us-in-the-dark".

Over the weekend, we emailed the Vice-Chancellor and the Public Relations Director. Neither responded. We advised them exactly where and when we could be found. No reply.

While we weren't jumping at the opportunity to tell them that a story on our story (that's what the ASPA story was) was published elsewhere, had they simply asked us who else had we told, we would have duly told the truth.

They didn't ask. They didn't respond to our requests. They wanted us in the dark. We were. And now they're complaining that we didn't respond to their complaints quickly enough - i.e. that we didn't act as if the injunction was in place three days before they serve us with it.

The fact that this injunction is holding the fruits of our labour to ransom hurts us immeasurably, but we have respected and observed the law. Speaking of which, we need help. Lawyers are expensive. If you have $10k (or part thereof) sitting around in your bottom drawer and you are happy to throw it at a bunch of dirty student journalists sticking it to The Man (and protecting the ability of the media to cover stories based on leaks), we'd love to hear from you. Email me at keith@salient.org.nz.

This is not just about a large organisation being able to squash the little guys. This is a case that will have an impact on *all* leaks. If this leak is stopped, it won't be the last.

It makes you think.