Australians for Palestine: removal of billboard a breach of freedom of expression

The advocacy group behind the controversial free Palestine billboard which was pulled down by Ooh Media Australians for Palestine, has described the removal of the ad was a breach of its freedom of expression.

Samah Sabawi, a volunteer with the organisation, told Mumbrella: “We believe that removing the billboard was clearly a breach of our right to freedom of expression. We understand that the right to free speech carries with it special duties and responsibilities including the respect of the rights or reputations of others and the protection of national security or of public order. None of that was violated by the billboard’s message.”

The pro-Palestine billboard, located in Melbourne’s Southbank, was taken down by Ooh Media, the owner of the billboard site, pending further decisions by the Ad Standards Board (ASB), legal experts and other authorities on whether the controversial ad breaches advertising standards and rules. Yesterday the ASB it would not be taking action as the board fell under the classification of political advertising.

Ooh Media Palestine Billboard

The billboard featured images of Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu under the slogan “Apartheid: Wrong In South Africa. Wrong in Palestine”. It also carried a quote from Mandela: “Our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians” and a quote from Tutu: “Gaza is going to test who believes in the worth of human beings”.

Sabawi said the billboard did not promote hate speech nor did it incite violence, and argued the board’s removal is an example of “powerful players” having no tolerance for the political views of others. 

“The billboard did not single out or blame any particular community here in Australia, it did not promote hate speech in any way, it did not incite violence and it didn’t even name Israel,” she said. “Furthermore, the billboard did not advertise for any particular political faction, party or viewpoint.

“That it equated the situation in Palestine with that in South Africa’s apartheid era is something that has been supported by various Israeli and other human rights groups as well as leading South African human rights advocates.  The billboard merely highlighted two quotes by two of the world’s most respected human rights leaders Nelson Mandela’s and Archbishop Desmond Tutu in calling for the world to recognise the plight of the Palestinians.

“We believe that removing the billboard was a sad example of the impossibility of having real ‘free speech’ in a society where powerful players have no tolerance for the political views of others especially when it comes to being critical of Israel’s policies within the public sphere.”

Ooh Media has declined to comment on the decision to remove the billboard, or to elaborate on which authorities it is waiting to hear from over the board.

Miranda Ward

Disclaimer: Ooh Media is currently advertising in the Mumbrella email newsletter.


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