[ Electronic Frontiers Australia ]

Media Release


Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc.

                                                January 20, 2001


Electronic Frontiers Australia today condemned the actions of the
Minister for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Senator
the Hon John Herron, for threatening legal action against the
operators of a website critical of his stance on 'the Stolen

The website featured a game which parodied the Minister's comments on
'the Stolen Generation'.

"In a free society, it is completely unacceptable for politicians to use
threats of legal action to silence their critics," said EFA Board member
Dale Clapperton.  "Senator Herron has completely overreacted to
a humorous parody of his handling of the 'Stolen Generation' issue."

"Furthermore, threatening to use the Federal Police to track down the
authors of this site constitutes a gross abuse of his power as an elected

"It is abhorrent that Senator Herron has threatened to sue the publishers of
this website, simply because he finds an animation featuring him to be
personally objectionable.  His claim that the animation defames him is
completely without merit, and his threats appear to be nothing more than an
attempt to extort the silence of the publishers."

The website, located at http://www.webwank.net/ contains humorous Macromedia
Flash animations, featuring figures such as John Howard and Jesus.

The web site publishers said Senator Herron sent them an email stating:
"This is to formally let you know that I am instituting proceedings against
you for defamation in the Supreme Court of Queensland . The Federal Police
will be involved to track this website if I do not receive a response within
24 hours."

After being removed briefly following Senator Herron's threats, the
animation featuring the Senator has been returned to the site.

EFA called on Senator Herron to back down from his threats of legal action
and apologise to the publishers of the website for threatening them.

"Electronic Frontiers Australia is extremely concerned by the use of
threats of defamation action by politicians and others to silence critics,"
said Mr. Clapperton.  "Another recent example was a Church of Scientology
threat against a Perth website which criticized Scientology.  In that case,
the outcome was that the site was removed and mirrored in the USA."

"EFA strongly supports the free speech opportunities that are opened
up by the Internet," Mr Clapperton said.  "Politicians and powerful
organisations have ample mechanisms to defend themselves against
criticism without resorting to legal action as a form of censorship."


      Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc   ---   http://www.efa.org.au
      representing  Internet users  concerned  about  on-line freedoms
      Email: [email protected]   Phone: 07 3424 0201   Fax: 07 3424 0241
      URL of this release: http://www.efa.org.au/Publish/PR010120.html

      Media contact:
        Mr Dale Clapperton, EFA Secretary/Treasurer.
        Phone:   0416 007 100
        E-Mail:  [email protected]


Webwank.net site


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