Politicians are defending their right to ban the media from using pictures taken in Parliament to poke fun, saying they need protection from being misrepresented.
They have become embroiled in a fight with media representatives over their plan to change the rules for televising Parliament, including a new offence if footage is used for "satire, ridicule or denigration".
Newspapers are also challenging changes that would allow television cameras to take shots that still photographers would continue to be banned from shooting.
The rule change for television cameras came only after MPs decided to set up their own multimillion-dollar taxpayer-funded service broadcasting Parliament when it is in session.
The multi-party committee of MPs that came up with the changes appeared to suggest that still photographers would make too much noise if the rules were also changed in their favour - but different reasons were given yesterday when it was raised with MPs.
Leader of the House Michael Cullen suggested it was too easy for photographers to take photographs that were out of context.
"Stills can show all kinds of things which may or may not be actually representative. I could go like that (Dr Cullen raised two fingers in the air) and you could take a still photograph and say I was showing the fingers. Which I wasn't actually."
Only Green MP Nandor Tanczos, a member of the committee of MPs that came up with the change, was prepared yesterday to speak out against it, saying he had not been aware at the time that the rule about satire was something new and he considered it unenforceable. The Green Party would now be discussing their position on the changes, he said.
But other MPs were right behind the move.
NZ First leader Winston Peters said journalists were supposed to be reporting what went on in Parliament, not become involved in satire.
Maori Party leaders Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples said they hoped the new rules would "assist the media in resisting the urge" to satirise, ridicule or denigrate MPs.
In 2005, TV3 had its cameras banned for a week after it showed then associate education minister David Benson-Pope sleeping. In 2000, The Evening Post suffered the same penalty after it printed a photograph of former National MP Annabel Young yawning.
In 2006, TV3 was banned for three days after showing a picture of NZ First MP Ron Mark making an obscene gesture.
Press gallery chairman Vernon Small said yesterday that MPs wanted the media to "protect them from themselves".
The gallery has sought an urgent meeting with Parliament's Speaker Margaret Wilson.
The Commonwealth Press Union's media freedom committee chairman, Tim Pankhurst, said he endorsed the press gallery stand.
Pankhurst, who is also editor of The Dominion Post, said the new rules were "absurd and must be challenged".
Still cameras "make to much noise"? I have one the shutter of which is so quiet it can not be heard at the next cafe table.
Naah! There was an interview on my wake-up radio news programme this morning featuring Tim Pankhurst and Tom Scott. The final comment came from Scott (I have mentioned him previously. He is famous for being the thorn in the side of past PM Robert Muldoon, culminating in Mouldy refusing to start a press conference until Scott had left the room.)
For goodness sake please do not suggest that they [our politicians] might behave themselves. I would be out of a job in a flash.
That aside, it is a sad measure of the way that our nation does business when the Board of Directors have to "protect themselves" from satire, ridicule or denigration.
Again, from DomPost, an illustration... I would love to have the photo in here but I am unable to extract it. It shows MP Helen Roy on her feet and speaking, and in the next chair is Tariana Turia fast asleep. Or is she?
Mrs Turia said through a spokeswoman that she was not asleep and she had seen the photographer taking pictures of her. However, she had a headache, and may have briefly closed her eyes.
The article makes the point that the part of the photo showing Roy, MP would under the new rule be "legal" whereas the right-hand side showing Turia would not.
Is that being a bit precious? Decide for yourselves. As the article reports -
In a 24-minute period yesterday, Dominion Post photographers took shots of various MPs yawning, checking their cellphone messages and reading newspapers or glossy magazines.I can vouch, from personal observation, that there is nothing out of the ordinary nor inaccurate in that statement. It is not a criticism of the current Parliament.
That was on their first day back from a four-day break and just 15 minutes after Parliament started sitting.
It has always been so...
... an MP giving the bird to a member on the other side of the House.
... reading the newspaper.
... asleep - probably the most common.
While on the topic of sleeping, I must relate a quick story concerning the late (and sadly missed) "Mayor Robbie". Robbie, Sir Dove-Meyer Robinson, is one of the true fathers of Auckland City. He once boasted to a member of the Royal Family that a letter adressed "Robbie, New Zealand" would reach him without delay. He was right. But to the sleeping...
I have seen Robbie in action at a meeting, one which was dragging somewhat and as usual getting bogged in trivia. Robbie dozed off after about 15 minutes, quietly snoring to himself in his front row seat. About an hour later, the agenda had progressed to an item (of some significance) that was likely Robbie's main reason for being there. The item was called by the Chairman and the first person on his feet was Robbie. I could swear that 5 seconds earlier he was fast asleep.