Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Camera Conscious MPs get Paranoid

New Zealand's MPs are drafting draconian new rules aimed at forcing the media to only show them in a good light. MPs are keen to ensure their increasingly bad behaviour in Parliament isn't broadcast to the nation's voters.

The new rules will make it a potential contempt of Parliament to use any images for the purposes of "satire, ridicult, or denigration". Offenders could apparently face heavy fines, or even be put in prison. (New Zealand is becoming more like China/North Korea/Zimbabwe by the day!)

Footage of "general disorder on the floor of the House" will be banned, with still photographers still restricted in what they can shoot in the House (because apparently MPs want to "minimise the prospect of disturbance by photographers" ?!?).

The Press Gallery made a number of submissions against the new rules... not surprisingly under the current administration, every single submission was rejected by Parliament's Standing Orders Committee.

Private broadcaster TV3 was banned last year, for playing footage of NZ First MP Ron Mark making a "rude finger gesture".
They also previously faced criticism and ban from NZ's 'Popular and Competent Prime Minister', for showing David Benson-Pope (aka PSB) fast asleep during a session of Parliament.

Going back even further, TV3 were banned from media briefings by the National Party after one of Bill Ralston's "Yo, Nightliners!" segments... where Ralston and crew produced a clever montage of Jim Bolger's Heartland Tour, backed by a school choir singing "Nowhere Man".

At this stage, footage and photographs taken outside of Parliament are still fair game... but expect to see new laws aimed at further curbing free speech very soon if the current motley crew have their way. Even the days of the political cartoon in the newspaper may be numbered.

The New Zealand Herald notes that not all MPs are against banning freedom of the press...
ACT Party leader Rodney Hide is quoted as saying, "The difference between living in a dictatorship and living in a democracy is that we are allowed to make fun of our politicians."

Mr Boring (aka United leader Peter Dunne) meanwhile sniffs, "I think that taking parliamentary broadcasts and turning them into a joke is going a bit far."

* NZ Herald: It's official: Politicians just can't take a joke

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