Monday, October 3, 2016

SHOOTING THE MESSENGER

There seems to be a standoff between parliament and the press following the averse reporting on some MPs recent trip to the US and their demands for hundreds of millions to buy cars.

Parliament seems to be under the impression that the reporting of parliament stops at the plenary and the committee rooms and should not extend to the honourable members’ activities in everyday life – although the negative commentary has come from their official duties.

This might be dismissed as a spurt between lovers but this is a more important issue for the furthering of democracy, that should not be swept under the carpet.

For background’s sake parliament is the third arm of government – the others are the executive and the judiciary. Parliament broadly speaking, represents the people and performs an oversight role of government in determining that it is working in the best interests of the people. This is in addition to its role as law maker.

The press, whereas it is not an arm of government, has been recognised as the fourth estate. With the other three being the church, royalty and the representatives of the people. The term the fourth estate was coined during the time that England was transitioning from a feudal to democratic systems.

Assigning the media the title of the fourth estate was a recognition that whereas the rulers’ excesses need to be checked, but those who check the rulers need to be watched as well.

"Parliament must know that the outrage expressed by the media is at a best a milder representation of what the public feels; A public who suffers understaffed, underequipped and ineffective social services. A public that endures poor transport systems; A public that sees little hope in an economy which is not ticking along as it should...

When you add to this the MPs splurging on foreign trips and threatening to throw their toys out of the pram if they don’t get their way, then you can see where the disgust comes from.

The media after all is a mirror to our society. If society does not like the media it, society, probably needs to take a good look at itself. The same can be said for our parliament.

The ideal is that parliament and the media should work together in holding the powers that be accountable, but parliament should not assume that the lenses will never be turned on them, especially since they are probably one of the biggest concentration of budgetary expenditure in this country. And also because parliament is manned by the human beings who at the best of times are fallible.

That being said parliament is within its rights to have differences with the media, to question its methods and every so often be loudly vocal about their disapproval. But in looking for censure of their media there are institutions through which this can be channelled.

By seeking out this institutions, in fact parliament will be strengthening institutions, devolving power from individuals and promoting due process.

"You have to worry when people in power cannot take criticism. It makes you wonder about what they are hiding or the insecurities they harbour. If one is secure within themselves they should be able to see beyond the raw emotion or delivery of the criticism, turn it around into a force for good...


The truth is, despite previous evidence, we actually expect a lot from parliament, its members and the institution. Our criticism is not unlike the scolding of a parent or teacher who knows his charge can do better. Believe it or not we do not believe parliament is beyond salvage.

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