New Zealand has increased its international ranking for media freedom, a result that School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing lecturer Dr Cathy Strong describes as “good news” though she still urges vigilance.
The annual ranking by international journalists organisation Reporters Without Borders showed New Zealand improved its listing five places from 13th to eighth highest of countries with governments allowing media to work independently.
Dr Strong, who, re-joined the University last year after three years teaching multi-media journalism in Dubai, says the ranking is well above the USA ranked 32nd, the UK ranked 29th and Australia ranked 26th.
“It is a case of use it or lose it. My experience working in the Middle East made it clear that many people don’t even know the concept of free media, so New Zealand should not be blasé about the treasure it has.”
The report by Reporters Without Borders highlighted the fact that seven journalists have already been killed in 2013 – less than a month into the year. In 2012 90 journalists were killed carrying out their duties with another 53 media assistants and citizen-journalists suffering the same fate.
Dr Strong says New Zealand should be proud that it continually guards the right of journalists to have access to public information, especially as it is the public’s taxes that pay for the generation of this information.
“Every time someone uses the Official information Act to compel a local authority or government department to release facts and figures, it is another step to ensure media freedom.”
Upholding freedom for bloggers and social media is a “vexing problem” she says, as they should have freedom, but like journalists, they should exercise it with a sense of social responsibility.
Parliament will soon be investigating a proposal to change the way the media is held accountable, as set out recently in draft legislation from the Law Commission.