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Student journalists outraged as Parliament access withdrawn

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 3 Mar 2024, 1:35PM
Salient magazine editor Phoebe Robertson. Photo / Ethan Manera
Salient magazine editor Phoebe Robertson. Photo / Ethan Manera

Student journalists outraged as Parliament access withdrawn

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 3 Mar 2024, 1:35PM

Student journalists feel Parliament’s Speaker is waging a “war on student journalism” after their access to Parliament was restricted.

But Speaker Gerry Brownlee says declining the renewal of their accreditation is a matter of security, not media access.

The Aotearoa Student Press Association (Aspa), which represents eight university newspapers and magazines, has been an associate member of Parliament’s Press Gallery since at least 2005, giving them swipe card access to Parliament to attend media stand-ups and press conferences.

But when Victoria University’s Salient magazine asked for its name to be updated on the longstanding membership in February, they were told the Speaker had declined their accreditation.

Brownlee told NZME he’s currently working through a review of who has swipe-card access to Parliament.

“I haven’t actually said a blanket no, I’ve simply said at the moment I’m not issuing any [access cards]”.

He said student journalists don’t come to Parliament often enough to warrant bypassing security measures by using a swipe card.

Brownlee said attendance at the post-Cabinet press conference is by invitation of the Prime Minister. “They would need to take that up with the ninth floor of the Beehive”.

Salient editor Phoebe Robertson says that’s a “cop-out excuse”.

“It just feels really disrespectful. We have held this pass for years”.

Salient magazine editor Phoebe Robertson. Photo / Ethan Manera
Salient magazine editor Phoebe Robertson. Photo / Ethan Manera

Robertson says for years politicians haven’t taken student media seriously and revoking the accreditation is a troubling move.

“That’s kind of the whole point of democracy is that people can have access, that we can have access and ask politicians questions that other people aren’t asking.”

Robertson said Salient, as a member of the Media Council, is a “valid journalistic organisation” and revoking the accreditation takes away opportunities for young journalists.

“Our journalists are here because they want careers in journalism, the press pass goes to someone who wants to make a career of it”.

When asked if student journalists would still be invited to the post-Cabinet press conference, the Prime Minister’s office told NZME in a statement: “At this stage we have no plans to change how we handle the post-Cabinet press conference.”

“If we were to do so, we would do it in consultation with the Press Gallery,” the statement said.

Green Party MP Chloe Swarbrick told NZME she’s made efforts to support the reinstatement of Aspa’s accreditation, after being approached by student journalists at a university event last week.

Swarbrick, a former journalist at Auckland University’s bFM, said the presence of Aspa in the Press Gallery is critical for holding politicians accountable on issues affecting students.

She said their Press Gallery membership was also valuable for “the pipeline for development of talent” for up-and-coming journalists.

Swarbrick raised concerns about the Speaker’s role in signing off on Press Gallery accreditation, saying it “curtails the opportunity for the fourth estate to hold our elected officials to account”.

“My very strong view is that accreditation should be something managed by the Press Gallery themselves, of course in consultation with those that represent the institution,” she said.

Press Gallery chair Maiki Sherman told NZME: “The Speaker is currently working through a review of the accreditation process and has suggested that applications are not advanced until that work is complete.”

“Press Gallery executive members are working constructively with the Speaker to provide feedback”, Sherman said.

Ethan Manera is a multimedia journalist based in Wellington. He joined NZME in 2023 and is interested in politics, local issues and the Public Service. Ethan is always on the lookout for a story, he can be emailed at [email protected] or messaged on X (formerly Twitter) @ethanjmanera.

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