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The Implications Of The CTU Scoop Censorship

As a journalist working extremely hard to produce a service that I want to be the best of its kind I am angered and astounded that the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions seems set on trying to undermine Scoop Media.

Readers of Scoop will be aware that the CTU Head Office, the Association of University Staff and The Post Primary Teachers Association refuse to send Scoop any information or their media releases, despite exhaustive efforts on our behalf. Scoop readers may also be aware that Scoop Media was founded after three people walked away from another on-line news agency and struck out alone following an industrial dispute.

What we can gather from the CTU and its affiliated unions is that they are refusing to send us their information because they consider the market is only big enough for one on-line news service and as such they have developed an “informal position” to keep Scoop in the dark.

I find this astounding and, despite my best efforts, also rather infuriating. I consider it arrogance in the extreme that the CTU finds it appropriate to basically take sides in an industrial dispute and, on top of that, finds it acceptable to attempt to undermine a commercial venture that employs people.

All Scoop has ever requested from the CTU is to be placed on their e-mailing list so we automatically receive their media releases. I accept the CTU has every right to chose where their information goes but refusing to provide information to one media agency in order to prop up and support another has serious implications and says a lot about the values of the organisation.

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I was especially keen to talk to the President of the Association of University Staff, Jane Kelsey, today on this issue but she is in Budapest and obviously can’t comment. The AUS communications officer Michael Gibbs said he wasn’t prepared to go into the issue again and that the decision not to send us their material stood.

Jane Kelsey has been a staunch campaigner for transparency and openness within the tertiary sector, battling for the rights of university staff to openly and freely criticise and discuss their working environment without fear of retribution. One assumes that Jane Kelsey also supports democracy and freedom of information, yet her own association now censors who gets what and denies requests from an independent media organisation for basic information.

On top of that Jane Kelsey is more than happy for Scoop to publish material from other initiatives she is involved in. It would seem that the AUS position to refuse us access to their information is in direct opposition to the goals of the organisation.

If I was a member of the CTU I would also be furious that my money was being wasted on PR staff who, quite simply, are not doing their job. Media officers are employed, unless I am mistaken, to publicise the work of their employer as effectively as possible. This means distributing media releases as widely as possible to any interested party, and especially those who request their material.

Scoop has very quickly carved out a rapidly growing international readership and has gained a great deal of respect for its unrivalled analysis and in depth coverage of events like the East Timor crisis and the APEC conference. Scoop will succeed on our own merits and because nobody else is coming close to doing what we do.

If Scoop were to learn that agencies were censoring who received their information in order to shut down competing media we would distance ourselves from such moves immediately. To support such censorship is to impede the free flow of information and, indirectly, distort democracy.

The CTU have overestimated their own self importance and they are doing the agency they so clearly support no favours at all. Nobody is going to switch from Scoop simply to read the occasional CTU media release, because Scoop offers so much more.

In the meantime the CTU will continue to insult the public and try to play god with information which, originally, was designed for the public domain.


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