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New Zealand: Journalists are livid

August 1, 2013

By Bryce Edwards

Andrea Vance

Andrea Vance

Political journalists are livid. They’re angry with the Government and the arrangements that have led to the state surveillance of journalists such as Andrea Vance (and to a lesser extent, investigative journalist Jon Stephenson). Vance herself has finally spoken out in a column today that is an absolute must-read for those interested in issues of privacy, media freedom and politics in New Zealand – see: I’m angry at my records being released. Vance appears to be particularly unhappy with John Key, Parliamentary Service, David Carter, the GCSB leak inquiry boss David Henry, as well as with politicians in general who she believes have helped threaten the status of media freedom in New Zealand.

Vance’s point of view appears to be shared by many journalists in the Parliamentary Press Gallery. On Twitter, her colleagues – amongst many others – have been retweeting and endorsing her column. And a number of Press Gallery journalists are also writing their own important columns and stories on the issue. Vernon Small’s column, Parliamentary Service in need of shakeup is particularly important because he explains why the Parliamentary Service is dysfunctional, and relates this to the fact that the organisation has been given an exemption – by politicians – from Official Information Act.

Leading political columnist John Armstrong has also unleashed a harsh critique of the situation in his opinion piece, Violation speaks ill of our democracy. He says that the saga over the release of Vance’s phone records ‘speaks of something very sick and rotten at the heart of the country’s democracy’. The political editor of TV3, Patrick Gower, is also visibly angry in his analysis of the situation. Watch and read the TV3 item, Gower slams ‘cowboy spying operation’ and also, Prime Minister adamant over Vance emails – both are recommended as they give very good explanations of what has happened and what the issues are.

Journalists are receiving some seriously heavyweight support from constitutional lawyer and ex-Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer – you can watch his five-minute interview on Campbell Live – see Sir Geoffrey: Why phone record gaffe matters. He says that what has occurred is an indirect attack on the freedom of the media. Also listen to his 10-minute Radio NZ Nine-to-Noon interview: Phone records handed over during GCSB investigation. Palmer argues that the ministerial inquiry ignored the protections that journalists have under the Evidence Act, and that Henry has a made a ‘terrible constitutional error’. Read more in the National Business Review.

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