Wednesday, March 28, 2007

You're Nicked Son

It seems every time a Chinese dignitary visits this country the powers that be want to placate them at the cost of some of our basic democratic rights. This latest incident involving Chinese Capital news reporter Nick Wang is another case in point.

It is patently unacceptable for the Police and the Diplomatic Protection Squad to act the way the did. It is not for the Chinese Embassy to determine who can and cannot cover political events in this country. Their attempts to pressure the situation should have been firmly rebutted.

The officers involved can't plead ignorance. The officer based in Parliament is well versed in the rules and regulations pertaining to media coverage and surely knows the only person who can revoke a journalist's accreditation is the Speaker and no-one else. For him to issue the threats that he did is simply untenable.

Nor do our politicians come out of this with any glory. Both Helen Clark and Michael Cullen tried to fudge the issue yesterday saying events were confused, that media access to the Beehive core was unclear, and that Mr Wang may have caused trouble.

This simply does not stack up. Nick Wang, who's had Press Gallery accreditation for 8 years had sought permission from the Speaker to film the event. Furthermore the signing ceremony had been listed on the Government's Ministerial Diary as a photo opportunity - surely a clear indication that media were entitled to attend. But what really dismantles the facile arguments of Clark and Cullen is the video recorded of the event (kudos to Nick's cameraman here). It quite plainly shows he acted professionally at all times and did no more than raise reasonable objections to what was a blatant abuse of procedure. The PM and her deputy should hang their heads in shame for trying to pin the blame on Mr Wang. That they tried is unforgivable.

It's a sad fact the real reason the politicians are trying to downplay and avoid the issue is their drive for a free trade agreement with China. They simply don't want to offend the Chinese and risk the loss of a lucrative deal. This obsession with the dollar isn't just restricted to the Government though - National Party Leader John Key wanted to stay as far away from the matter as possible saying he couldn't comment "because I wasn't there" and "it was Dr Cullen's meeting".

It's a shame the leaders of our democracy don't have the gumption to stand up for one of its basic tenets.

Freedom of expression isn't as important to them as is free trade. How sad is that?

However the good news is Speaker Margaret Wilson has come out on the side of the media and is sending a stern please explain message to the police, as well as note to the Chinese Embassy reminding them of how we do things here. It's too soon to say but I would expect at least the Police and DPS to be forced to apologise to Nick Wang ... and maybe even the Chinese Embassy?

No comments: