The government's attempt to reintroduce prison sentences for slander failed thanks to the mobilisation of the press which has a great deal of liberty in this country.
On 15 November, a Member of Parliament of the party in power introduced an amendment to the electoral code, which called for fines and prison sentences (a maximum of three months) for anyone publishing "slanderous information" during the electoral campaign. Introduced on the sly, after the electoral code had been examined by a parliamentary commission, this amendment was immediately denounced by the Press Council and the entire profession. Media executives denounced a desire to "muzzle coverage of the political debate". The managing editor of the New Zealand Herald spoke of a "draconian measure that makes me wonder about the government's commitment toward freedom of the press". On 4 December, the government withdrew this amendment.
On 17 April 2001, the president of the Parliament of Cook Islands (an autonomous State associated with New Zealand) banned Jason Brown, a journalist with private weekly Cook Island News, from entering the Parliament's building for a month and a half. In the latest issue of this magazine, Brown had published an article criticising the attitude of the Minister of Health, also the Vice-President, on issues of public health. The Minister threatened to "destroy" the magazine. He also planned to establish a licensing system for publications that would depend on the "quality of their content".
On 17 June, the Prime Minister, Terepai Maoate, encouraged Cook Islands media to form a Press Council, saying that if they did not, he would do it himself. Two years before, he expressed the same desire but nothing was done. He also asked journalists to show more "professionalism".
This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.