New Zealand’s drop out of the top 10 ranking of nations respecting media freedom is indicative of reasons including a growing trend for government agencies to try and hide information from the public.
On the eve of World Press Freedom day tomorrow (May 3), Dr Catherine Strong from Massey University’s School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing, describes the decline as “alarming” and says the lower ranking serves as a warning for New Zealand’s public bodies to take democratic freedoms seriously.
International journalists organisation Reporter Without Borders dropped New Zealand down five places from eighth to 13th on a global register of 180 countries it annually surveys measuring the basic principles of press freedom.
“Our lower standing is due to the growing list of government agencies trying to hide information by thwarting the Official Information Act, and these agencies are ruining our reputation,” Dr Strong says.
The Ombudsman’s Office however has started releasing detailed lists of every complaint in an effort to encourage departments to improve their public accountability process.
Dr Strong says New Zealand still practices way-more media freedom than most of the world but in an era where the media’s credibility was challenged with “alternative facts” and allegations of “fake news,” she warned against complacency.
“The recent criticism of the way police handle rape cases currently in the media just wouldn’t be allowed in most countries in the world, so we are lucky to have the spotlight put on problems that need rectifying,” she says.