The Maori Party has finally realised they need to shut down media conjecture surrounding the disciplinary and disputes committee re Hone Harawira. As such Pem Bird has issued a press release announcing a media ban on all aspects of the process.
This is somewhat disappointing but understandable. However, The Maori Party should not lose sight of the fact that they are a political organisation currently part of government. As a member of government the party owes, to a somewhat limited extent, the public a degree of transparency. As a political organisation the party owes its members a degree of transparency as well. Communication, i.e. media coverage, is central to all political activity but of course the counter argument is that internal party problems are of no concern to the public. However, one could argue when those problems begin to affect government stability, essentially the ability of government to govern, then it does become the business of the public.
Banning media coverage was a slick move. The party clearly realised that they had no control over the narrative, certainly the media were moving the issue in an increasingly unfavourable direction. Therefore, the party needed to reclaim the natural advantage. A blanket ban on media coverage means the party can manage the news in its favour. The Maori Party now has power over how and when news re Harawira is presented. The party will also control the content and thus have more influence over the direction the news will take. The news will be presented on The Maori Party’s terms. Naturally there is no guarantee the media will follow the party’s lead but it is apparent that the party has more power of the news as a result of the ban.
I think a ban on media coverage is a good thing for political discourse. The whole saga is dragging on and on and consequently deflecting focus on arguably more important issues such as the MCA bill and the upcoming welfare report. The party does deserve a degree of privacy over this issue and I hope the media respect this.