Wellington, March 29, 2020
The Government’s decision to close down all community and weekly papers must be reversed.
The decision that only paid daily newspapers can continue to publish during the lockdown is wrong. It means that many New Zealanders will now be without the news they have come to depend upon and now need during the lockdown.
The New Zealand Independent Community Newspapers Association represents more than 80 independent publications around the country.
Their President David Mackenzie has assured me his members fully accept and respect the Covid-19 social distancing and health and safety protocols.
Therefor, they should be allowed to continue publishing.
These businesses have invested heavily in making changes to the way they operate. A majority of them are small publishers whose staff are now working safely and completely remotely.
Many of our most vulnerable citizens rely heavily upon community newspapers for social interaction and access to news. This is particularly true in our smaller communities, rural areas and within New Zealand’s ethnic communities.
Community newspapers provide an important platform to keep the wider public informed on Covid-19. Many elderly do not have easy access to internet or social media and are often not subscribed to or buy daily papers.
People should not be forced to pay for their news because of Government restriction.
While these are unprecedented times, media outlets should not be closed arbitrarily – free speech is a pillar to a functioning democracy.
I call on the Government to revisit this decision and allow independent community newspapers that meet the requirements of social distancing and Covid-19 health and safety protocols to be allowed to continue publishing the news.”
Todd McClay is elected Member of Parliament from Rotorua and National Party’s Spokesperson for Economic Development.