New Zealand’s book censorship review board has arisen from the dead and slapped an interim ban on a book for the first time since the current law was passed 22 years ago.The president of the Film and Literature Board of Review, Don Mathieson has issued the Interim Restriction Order banning the sale or distribution of Auckland author Ted Dawe’s award-winning novel for teenagers Into the River until the full board can consider whether the book should be restricted.
The moralist campaigner, Family First director Bob McCoskrie, who requested the review, said the interim order – the first affecting a book under the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993 – showed people could still use the censorship system. He spouted:
Hopefully we have set a precedent and people start bringing other books to the fore that they are concerned about.
Where a book is targeted at teenagers it needed to be language and theme appropriate.
The order is the latest twist in an extraordinary saga for Into the River , which won the top prize in the 2013 Children’s Book Awards. The censor’s office first classified it as unrestricted with a note about explicit sex, drugs and offensive language. The review board later imposed an R14 restriction, but this was overturned last month when deputy chief censor Nic McCully ruled that the book should be unrestricted.
Pro-censorship Mathieson, who argued a minority case for an R18 restriction in 2013, said in the new interim order it was debatable, and a matter of independent public interest, whether the chief censor acted lawfully in overturning the board’s decision.
It is now illegal to supply the book to anyone until the full board made a final decision.