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Opinion - Politicians 'want media on leash'

Opinion - Politicians 'want media on leash'

Cook Islands Herald

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RAROTONGA, Cook Is (Cook Islands News/Pacific Media Watch): Get ready to take the "Raro" off Rarotonga if Norman George¹s Democratic Party government gets its way over imposing controls on the media. Rarotonga media law will end up looking like Tonga media law if our politicians have their way.

Behind a weak façade of concern over broadcasting standards, is the worst case of government muscle-flexing ever witnessed to silence criticism from one media organization.

It is no surprise to note that the biggest demands for media controls have always come from politicians, who cannot handle being criticized. Our MPs have the thinnest of skins when it comes to being scrutinized over their behaviour. Thinner even than prima donna journalists, which is really saying something.

It is also no surprise that Norman George¹s Democratic Party government was the party that often boasted it would introduce a Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament. The government got as far as drafting a bill but they¹ve never bothered to advance this measure against themselves.

All of a sudden, government now wants to really butt in and rule who should get broadcasting licenses, and perhaps newspaper licenses. Norman George is even saying government will determine our media standards by setting up a Media Council. But what politicians are only revealing is that they cannot tolerate the stiff conditions they want to impose on others.

The Democratic Party should be revisiting this failure to crack down on corrupt behavior and abuse of taxpayers¹ money before they start destroying the democratic vehicles for public debate, public scrutiny, and public opinion.

We know from recent history it has been politicians that have demanded regulatory control of the media. We know that when a Media Council was established back in the mid 1990s, it was politicians that dominated the submissions in lodging complaints. The old Media Council was in fact, in danger of being flooded with complaints from the government of the day - the Cook Islands Party.

The government should have no say on the regulatory control over the industry. That is a task for the industry itself. No real democracy would tolerate the influence of the government of day in determining a regulatory body for the media.

Government already has influence over broadcasting licences. And contrary to popular belief, this is not a legislated monopoly, which is what Telecom Cook Islands has been granted. The law gives TCI a monopoly. The law does not give television or radio any monopoly.

The government wants to extend influence over newspapers, which is out of the sphere of influence of politicians. We warn the people of the Cook Islands: your voice - the voice of debate, scrutiny, and opinion - would then be ruled like the thumb of Tonga oppression.



PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region. Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media based in Sydney, Journalism Studies at the University of PNG (UPNG), the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (ACIJ), Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, and Community Communications Online (c2o).

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