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Press Freedom address at AUT timely reminder

Press Freedom address at AUT timely reminder in wake of Collins comments on press gallery

5 May 2014

A talk to mark Press Freedom Day will explore the dangers of complacency around media freedom in New Zealand.

The UNESCO World Freedom Day lecture, being held at AUT University tomorrow night (Tuesday), comes in the same week Justice Minister Judith Collins wrongly accused one reporter of making an inappropriate request and issued a warning to the wider press gallery that she might “get recall on all sorts of things”.

Collins has since rescinded her comments about political reporter Katie Bradford but the comment directed toward the New Zealand press gallery could be viewed as a challenge to media freedom.

In an interview with a TV3 reporter, Collins suggested she had more information about inappropriate behaviour by members of the press gallery that she could make public: “You might just find I get recall on all sorts of things. We'll just wait and see. I think it is very important when the media want to raise issues about behaviours, they need to understand that they sometimes can be very inappropriate as well."

AUT University Professor David Robie says the events of this week are a timely reminder for all new Zealanders about the value and importance of press freedom, and the need to protect it.

“It’s easy to presume New Zealand is a safe place where press freedom is assured but those freedoms require protection. If you unpick the comments made by Justice Minister Collins the suggestion is that members of the press can only report on issues if they themselves have a ‘clean slate’, otherwise they face a penalty – a blatant threat. That is not media freedom.”

At tomorrow evening’s talk media researcher and commentator Dr Gavin Ellis, former editor-in-chief of The New Zealand Herald, will tackle the challenges of media freedom in a developed nation such as New Zealand.

Dr Ellis will be speaking as part of a global series of events marking Press Freedom Day with a theme of Media Freedom for a Better Future – shaping the post 2015 development agenda.

His address at AUT University on Tuesday evening (May 6) is entitled “No-one died covering celebrity news”.

He warns about the “fundamental danger in taking freedom for granted” in New Zealand and argues for a return to responsible journalism values.

Dr Ellis is a weekly commentator about media issues on Radio New Zealand National. He was chairman of the New Zealand Media Freedom Committee and recipient of the British Commonwealth Astor Press Freedom Award in 2005. He is the author of Trust Ownership and the Future of News: Media Moguls and White Knights to be published in London in June.

At the UNESCO lecture, he will also engage with the audience in a discussion of the issues raised.

The discussion will be moderated by New Zealand National Commission of UNESCO board member Trish Carter. The event has been organised by the National Commission in partnership with AUT’s Pacific Media Centre. The inaugural lecture last year was delivered by Dr Mark Pearson, professor of journalism and social media at Griffith University, Queensland.

When: Tuesday, May 6, 5.30-7.30pm.

Where: Sir Paul Reeves Building, Lecture Theatre WG126

Light refreshments available.

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