PrintNZ battles Kiwi govt print ban

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The New Zealand government has banned the printing of non-daily newspapers and magazines, leaving print association PrintNZ “gobsmacked” with the decision, made as the country goes into lockdown in its attempt to thwart Covid-19.

Concerned: Ruth Cobb, general manager PrintNZ.
Kiwi print gobsmacked: Ruth Cobb, general manager PrintNZ.

The edict came through at the weekend, and was part of the ruling that said print that supported essential services could be produced, but nothing else could.

The NZ Ministry of Culture and Heritage said non-daily print media is not an essential service during the lockdown, leaving magazines and community papers unable to publish.

Ruth Cobb, CEO at PrintNZ, said, “We are fighting to get the government to reverse the decision. Many regional areas depend on their local newspaper for instance, the big metro papers give those areas scant coverage.

“The decision will leave the vulnerable, the elderly, those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, those with poor English, without access to news that they need.

“PrintNZ is in intense conversation with the government to get them to reverse this decision.”

Cobb described the ban on a magazines as “a huge blow” to major heatset printers Blue Star and Ovato.

The ban on not producing non-essential print means, for instance, that a printer can produce leaflets for medicines, but can then not use his staff and presses to produce leaflets for cars or any other non-essential product.

There are wide disparities in the ban, the government, for instance, has said any products supplied into supermarkets are “essential”, with magazines one of those products. NZ post is also able to deliver, being deemed an essential service, but newspapers and magazines are not. Cobb said, “We are gobsmacked.”

Lobby group Free Speech Coalition has applied for a judicial review to overturn the ban, saying the idea that some bureaucrat can ban print is anathema in a free country.

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