Sun, 24 May 2015 at 2:43 p.m.
A Massey researcher is concerned that some local councils are gagging their elected members and stifling free speech.
Source: Massey University Te Kunenga Ki Purehuroa
Created: 02/12/2014 | Last updated: 16/12/2014
Councils’ conduct codes gag elected members
Dr Catherine Strong from the School Communication, Journalism and Marketing, says there is a disturbing paragraph creeping into some councils’ operating policies.
“It basically prevents elected members talking to the media about anything negative within their council. This includes council decisions, policies and overall reputations,” she says.
The research will be presented at the Journalism Education Association of New Zealand Conference in Christchurch on Thursday, and is a content analysis of codes of conduct of all 67 city and district councils in New Zealand.
While most councils clearly stated that elected members have the right to talk freely to the media (with obvious restrictions around confidential information and employment practices), the research found that 10 councils (15 per cent) restrict elected members giving critical opinion to the media.
This amounts to gagging the elected members – the very people who are representing the community, Dr Strong says. “They are not meant to be spin doctors for the council.” She suspects newly-elected councillors approve the entire 4000 word code of conduct without scrutinising the wording of the small media section within it.
Dunedin City Council – Standing Orders (PDF, 1018 KB)
12 Aug 2014: The Standing Orders set out rules for the conduct meetings of the Dunedin City Council and includes the Code of Conduct for Elected Members, as adopted at the inaugural Council meeting Oct 2010.
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Posted by Elizabeth Kerr