Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Protecting the press gallery?

Parliament's press gallery have made it clear to the speaker that they will not tolerate surveillance of their journalism:

Representatives from the parliamentary press gallery have raised concerns with Speaker David Carter over Parliamentary Service releasing the swipe card information of a political reporter.

Press gallery chairwoman Jessica Mutch said the press gallery was worried that journalists could be monitored while working in Parliament.

"We can't operate in an environment where our every move is tracked and that information is made public - that would make our job around the precinct difficult,'' she said.

And they can't. But what will they do if Carter doesn't outlaw spying on the gallery? Refuse to report on Parliament? Carter would probably regard that as a win, not a loss.

Meanwhile, this has been niggling at me for the past few days:
Parliamentary Service will not say who authorised the release of the swipe card information, or whether it had tracked journalists' movements in the past.

The only way to interpret this is as a sign of a guilty conscience. If parliamentary Services had nothing to hide, they'd be telling us that this was a one-off, that the staff-member had been disciplined / fired, and that it wouldn't happen again except on the Speaker's directive. Instead, they're clamming up. Which invites the question: what are they hiding? Who are they protecting? And how often have they done this in the past?

Of course, if Parliamentary Services was subject to the OIA, we'd have answers to these questions by now. And their malfeasance here simply makes the case for such scrutiny stronger.