Free TV Australia's decision to ban a pro-euthanasia advertisement just days before it was due to air provides further proof that Australia needs a charter of rights, according to barrister and director of the Australian Lawyers Alliance, Greg Barns.
Barns believes the fact that the government and commercial television regulators can control people's freedom of speech gives weight to the argument for a charter of rights.
"I think it's a gross infringement of freedom of speech," Barns said. "It's certainly one of the reasons why Australia needs a charter of rights because in the absence of a charter, governments and organisations like commercial television stations can essentially do what they like when it comes to freedom of speech.
"[They can] curtail freedom of speech in ways that limit public discourse and that's exactly what has happened here."
The controversial ad, made by euthanasia advocacy group Exit International, features an ill man reflecting on the everyday choices available to him throughout his life.
"I didn't choose to starve to death...I certainly didn't choose to have to watch my family go through it with me. I've made my final choice. I just need the government to listen," he said.
Permission to air the ad was rejected by industry regulator Free TV Australia which deemed the ad inappropriate for television because it encourages or promotes suicide, according to the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice.
"Free TV Australia expresses no view on the ethical and legal debate surrounding voluntary euthanasia and has no interest in suppressing debate on this sensitive issue," the industry body said in a statement.
Director of Exit International, Dr Nitschke, told The Sydney Morning Herald that he would try to relaunch a different version of the ad on Monday.
- Briana Everett
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