The banning of Manhunt
A classification of "objectionable"
means that the game is banned in New Zealand because the Office
determined that its availability was "likely to be injurious
to the public good."
Every classification is tailored to remedy
the injury that could be caused if a publication were to be
made available to the public. The injury that the Office found
Manhunt likely to cause could not be remedied by
anything short of a ban. The legal consequences that flow
from a ban reflect the gravity of the harm likely to be caused
by the game's availability.
In this case, the Office decided that
the freedom of expression is outweighed
by likelihood of injury to the public good that could result
from this game's availability. The length of time
it takes to complete the game, and the necessity to repeat
the killings in ever more gory fashion on each level if
one does not complete that level at first attempt, increases
exposure to material that initially disturbs, but which
must be accommodated, to complete the game. A player's
power both to initiate violence and to control the level
of violence is part of the process by which this accommodation
is made. To succeed in this game, a player, regardless of
age or maturity, must learn over an extended period of time
to acquiesce in, tolerate, or even enjoy, the violence he
or she inflicts.
One of the consequences of the ban is that
it is now illegal to possess Manhunt in New Zealand.
Anyone who possesses this game is liable to a fine of $2,000
(s131). Anyone who possesses Manhunt and exhibits
or displays it to someone under the age of 18 is liable to
imprisonment for one year or a fine of $20,000 (s127).
Anyone who supplies, distributes, exhibits,
displays, supplies, possesses for the purpose of supply or
advertises Manhunt, knowing that it is objectionable,
could be imprisoned for up to a year or fined $20,000. Incorporated
distributors and retailers could face a fine of $50,000 (s124).
A game classified as "objectionable" cannot
be legally imported either. Objectionable publications, including
Manhunt, are "prohibited imports" under the Customs
and Excise Act 1996. The Customs Service has the power to
seize all prohibited imports, regardless of how they arrive
at the border. A person who buys Manhunt on an overseas
trip and tries to bring it into New Zealand, and anyone who
has ordered it from a website, risks not only having the game
seized, but also 6 months in jail or a fine of $10,000 (s209
of the Customs and Excise Act).
Bans are not lightly entertained.
When they are imposed, it is because the Office can see no
other way of mitigating the risk of injury to the public good.
In this case, the need to protect the greater public good
from injury required the sacrifice of the right of individuals
to entertain themselves with Manhunt's gameplay of
sadistic and gory killings.
>> CLICK HERE TO VIEW
THE FULL DECISION AS A PDF