Bloggers with agenda tip the balance

Politicians expect to be grilled by the media over their Party’s policies, and over their own actions, as the media’s role in holding politicians to account is crucial to an informed democracy.

We in New Zealand are very fortunate to have the right to free speech and we enjoy a high degree of press freedom.

I have read that only 18% of the world’s population live in countries with a similar level of press freedom to that of New Zealand.

Growing Social Media

While a very significant proportion of New Zealand’s adult population continue to rely on traditional news services, including print, radio and television, the influence of social media is growing rapidly.

We have progressively seen traditional media losing their monopoly to digital news outlets and bloggers. This online content is largely free of charge, advertisers can potentially reach a wider variety of consumers, and there are a growing number of blog sites whose primary focus is news and current affairs.

Bloggers, online current affairs sites, and social media (especially Facebook and Twitter) offer a near live stream of information from which the public can inform themselves of New Zealand’s affairs.

It cannot be denied just how influential these non-traditional online news and social media outlets have become.

The Electoral Commission was seen to be grappling with social media at the September election as political staffers were left diligently deleting comments posted on politicians Ministers Facebook pages for fear that those comments could be deemed to ‘influence’ the vote on polling day.

Some challenges

However, this digital age has also led to challenges for media in terms of how they treat information that is made available on social media platforms, and how they ensure the public receive unbiased and informed news.

I believe that a majority of our media are fair and do provide a measured view of current affairs, with many online outlets being members of the Online Media Standards Authority. Blogging in particular is a powerful platform for debate as commentators exert their right to free speech. Some may be considered extremist in their views, as is to be expected in the largely anonymous online environment, but many offer reasonably balanced judgements.

Responsible values

Earlier this year former Editor-in-Chief of the New Zealand Herald, Dr Gavin Ellis, spoke at the UNESCO World Press Freedom lecture about the challenges of media freedom in developed nations.

He warned that there is a fundamental danger in taking freedom for granted in New Zealand, and highlighted the importance of the media returning to “responsible journalism values.”

I believe that it is a significant challenge for traditional media to ensure the news environment they cohabitate alongside these non-traditional commentators and bloggers continues to offer democratically significant journalism, with a wide range of information and fair and balanced viewpoints.

We rely on the many different individuals within the media industry as a whole to ensure the public receive sufficient bipartisan information to make up their own minds and draw their own conclusions.

I enjoy my interaction with our local papers and the relationships I have built with many of the journalists and editors I deal with on a day-to-day basis.

It is always important to remember that while bloggers and social media commentators may have their own views and agendas, the traditional media, on a whole, wish to provide a balanced view of what the Government is achieving, and to pull us up when we fall short.

Addressing priorities

As we enter into our third term in Government, we are getting to work quickly on our priorities. These include implementing our education reforms to lift teaching quality and leadership in our schools, and our housing programme, which will see New Zealanders helped into their first home through KiwiSaver HomeStart.

We will also continue to fast track the release of land for housing through special housing areas. I enjoy hearing from constituents; please get in touch if you have any feedback about what we can do for a better New Zealand.

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi has been a Member of Parliament on National List since 2008. He is also Deputy Chairperson of Law & Order Committee constituted by Parliament. He attends meetings, festivals and other events organised by people of all religious and social faiths in Auckland.

Bakshi greeting Gopal Krishna Gandhi (watched by then BNZ Partners Director and now BNZ Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, BNZ) at the Indian Newslink Indian Business Awards 2012 held on Monday, November 19, 2012 at the Sky City Convention Centre, Auckland

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