Cook Islands News on journalist ban bid: MPs are all in this together

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Cook Islands Parliament Speaker Niki Rattle ... she must decide whether to ban a Cook islands News journalist. Image: Cook Islands News

For the past few months, our Cook islands Parliamentarians have said repeatedly, “we’re all in this together”. Last night, they demonstrated that newfound unity.

But their unanimous vote was not to introduce a new weapon in the fight against covid-19; it was to condemn Cook Islands News for its reporting on MPs’ travel allowances.

They went further and asked Speaker Niki Rattle to require that Cook Islands News journalist Rashneel Kumar withdraw from reporting Parliament for an (as yet undecided) period.

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Cook Islands News ban bid
The ban move … Prime Minister Henry Puna said the allowances article “reflected badly on all MPs”. Image: Cook Islands News screenshot/PMC

To be clear: Cook Islands News stands by its reporting of Parliamentary questions about MPs’ entitlement to their spousal travel allowances. Our report was fair, and it was accurate – one need only check back on the recordings of Parliament to recognise that.

Sometimes we will make mistakes, we are human, and if we do we’ll correct them as our Code of Ethics requires.

We believe this report was accurate.

Yet the front page report of MPs spending Question Time pushing for their allowances to be paid out was also embarrassing for MPs, it seems, and that is why they have come down so hard on the newspaper.

The public can decide for themselves whether the time Parliamentarians have spent defending their allowances is a good use of the House’s scant sitting hours, at a time of national crisis.

What is certain is that the motion to stop our most experienced political journalist reporting on Parliament is an assault on a fundamental democratic right, the freedom of the media – the same right that Prime Minister Henry Puna had paid lip service to just hours earlier.

Cook Islands News editorial republished with the permission of the editor.

The Cook Islands News MP allowances article that caused a stir. Image: Cook Islands News screenshot/PMC
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