Tasmania’s Mercury issues apology to readers during election coverage ban

The recently appointed editor of the Mercury, Chris Jones, has taken a stand against Tasmania’s “ridiculous and outdated law”, which prevents the island state’s newspapers from publishing any coverage of the election during election day.

The paper’s front page was issued today with an apology to readers for being unable to provide any final election coverage before the country goes to the polls, claiming the paper’s staff “could go to jail if we tried to do our duty”.

The ban, which is unique to Tasmania, is spelled out in the Electoral Act, a law which was passed in 2004 as a rewritten update of 1984 legislation.

Section 198 of the act states that “a person must not, on the polling day fixed for an election … publish or cause to be published in a newspaper … a matter or comment relating to a candidate or a question arising from, or an issue of, the election campaign”.

The law only applies to newspapers, while radio, television and social media outlets are exempt.

Mercury editor Chris Jones said the ban denies the public their “right to be fully informed.”

“This ridiculous and outdated law is a direct attack on the public’s right to know,” he said.

“It denies voters their right to be fully informed on election day, and makes it so much easier for mistruths to spread on unregulated social media to influence what people hear before they cast their ballot. The next Parliament must repeal this bizarre law, and we will be fighting hard to ensure that happens.”


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