Censor Criticised Over Approach to Explicit Book

Media Release 30 Sep 2015
Family First NZ has made an additional submission regarding the re-classification of Into the River by Ted Dawe, and says that parents should be concerned by the arguments being put forward by the Chief Censor to justify making objectionable books with highly offensive language and explicit sexual content freely available without any age restriction.

Family First has consistently argued that an age restriction, not a ban, is appropriate for this book, and accepted the Board’s initial decision issued in December 2013 to classify it R14.

“Family First has asked Board members conducting their second review of the book, as a result of the Chief Censor’s Office to classify it ‘unrestricted’, to read the number of sections of the book highlighted by Family First which are widely considered highly offensive, objectionable, and completely inappropriate for young readers. It is interesting that none of the many offensive passages were highlighted or analysed in any detail in the Chief Censor’s submission – yet this is the material most likely to cause offence, and be objected to by parents,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“The Censor is guilty of minimising a number of harmful themes in the book including sexual activity and sexual grooming between children and children and adults, the normalising of illicit drug-taking, exposure to pedophilia, and playing down the activity of distributing naked images of young boys. The normalisation of illegal acts when directed towards young readers is unconscionable.”

“Significantly, the fact is acknowledged several times in the Censor’s submission that many children and young adults would find the content of the language in the book to be highly offensive and shocking, as would many in the general public. Parents should be hugely concerned that this material is still deemed acceptable to young people under the age of 14 years by the Censor,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“The Censor has also drawn heavily on comments from people and groups with a vested interest in supporting the book’s author Ted Dawe. But they have made no attempt to consult with families and parent groups. Family First has also produced evidence to the Board from documentation gained under the Official Information Act that the Censor was quick to highlight supporting statements for the book, but has suppressed a number of serious concerns raised by others concerning the exposure of young persons under the age of 16 years to the books gratuitous and offensive content.”

“It is also highly ironic that Auckland Libraries, who have led the campaign to have the book unrestricted, are arguing that no book should have an age restriction, when they themselves submitted the book Lost Girls for classification last year, and then happily accepted the R18 restriction placed on the book – a completely appropriate restriction. Where was the furore then? Have they objected to the many other books that have either an R18 restriction or a ban placed on them because of objectionable material? Into the River has been restricted R14 since December 2013. There was no furore then because it was an appropriate decision by the Board of Review – one which they accepted,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“This issue has far bigger ramifications than just the availability of this dodgy book. We believe that parents should be able to make informed choices about the media that their children consume. There is such a thing as age-appropriate media. That means there needs to be appropriate censorship rules around ‘right time and place’, and these rules must be upheld and respected by government agencies. It is only when parents and schools have confidence in these agencies, that they can then rely on their guidelines when making decisions as to what is appropriate and what is not appropriate. Every family is different but they must be able to make informed decisions.”

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