Reporters Without Borders released their 2017 world rankings for press freedom.
In 2016, New Zealand was in a proud 5th place. Unfortunately, policy choices by the government have dropped us 8 places to a fittingly unlucky 13th place.
In August 2016, the government revealed a grim future for whistleblowers, announcing a bill that would criminalize leaking government information to the media and would dramatically increase the surveillance powers of the intelligence services. Journalists, bloggers, and civil society representatives would be among the potential targets of the proposed law, which could be adopted in 2017.
Leaving aside the terrifying expansion of surveillance powers, the bill allows for any whistleblower unveiling illegal government spying to the media to be jailed for up to 5 years. There can be no justification for criminalising the publication of criminal acts.
The media continue to demand changes to the Official Information Act, which obstructs the work of journalists by allowing government agencies a long period of time to respond to information requests and even makes journalists pay several hundred dollars for the information.
The government should not be in the business of selling information, especially information that citizens are entitled to.
It’s very disappointing to see New Zealand drop in the rankings like this. Let’s hope the opposition and coalition partners shoot this bill down.