The Ashburton Guardian. Magna et Veritas et Prævalebit. FRIDAY, OCTOBER 17, 1890. DUMMYISM AT WOODVILLE.
Telegrams are now and again arriving South, having reference to the publication by. the " Woodville Examiner" of certain evidence taken before the Dunnnyism Enquiry Committee ftt Wellington. In order to make the telegrams referred to intelligible, we may point out that the salient features of the case arise out of the prosecution' of Mr Alexander i Peebles for alleged dummying of] land. While the case was sub judice the "Examiner," m order to place before its readers a correct idea of the points involved, published certain evidence from the Dummyism Inquiry report. This evidence, being most unfavorable to th« case of defendant, and calculated to influence the ultimate decision, the newspaper proprietor is being proceeded against by the defence. The question involved is one of interest and importance to the Press of the colony, inasmuch as that, should the defendant newspaper proprietor be convicted of an offence, journalists will require m future to exercise great care im reprinting extracts from Government papers bearing directly or indirectly upon any case engaging the attention of the Courts. It has usually been considered that all State documents dealing with public matters,' 'are prp bono publico, but it appears that this opinion can be called m question ; and that, m addition to the many other disabilities journalists now labor under m the matter of libels and defamations, they may be proceeded against for culling items of interest from State documents bearing upon questions agitating the public mind. This appears, at first sight, to be a new phase of State Censorship over the Press which should only exist m Russia, —and the outcome of the Woodville prosecution will therefore be watched by journalists with much interest. The evidence taken before the Dummyism inquiry, and published m ecctenso by the " Woodville Examiner," m certainly damnatory as against the defendant; but so also is the fact that tiie State has ordered, on the strength of the evidence submitted, the prosecution of Mr Poeble? for acts of Dumrayism. The evidence published was certain to come out at the Court inquiry, and the height-of! the newspaper proprietor's offending is, thxt he has anticipated evidence This act has hitherto been considered an evidence of journalistic enterprise, but the fact that it lays a journalist open to prosecution, involving a heavy fine or imprisonment, will, m future, unless the law is very materially altered, result m the newspapers of the colony being placed m such a position that they will fear to reprint anything at all —State documents or anything else.