Don’t know how you feel about it – but the selective unavailability of Ministers and senior public servants to media scrutiny seems to be a growing concern.
Regularly on RNZ – which usefully reports when this occurs – an issue will arise that begs for a response or where ministerial/departmental accountability is at stake – but the relevant politician/bureaucrat will not be available for comment.
Yet often and tellingly they’re not so beyond-radio-contact that they can’t find time to authorise and email a statement unilaterally stating their position.
Which indicates that it is the questioning of the party line that they’re choosing to avoid.
Now – I’m not saying that these busy, important people should be available for comment 24/7 on any issue whatsoever that the media – which is allegedly insatiable – feels inclined to ask.
But c’mon this is the state broadcaster.
If you can diary in an appearance on Breakfast TV – surely Morning Report isn’t too much of a stretch.
It comes down to a matter of balance.
And while I may be wrong on this it seems as though the balance is tilting increasingly towards politicians
(a) picking the interviewers/outlets to which they deign to make themselves available, while
(b) dodging those they don’t like and
(c) choosing to go AWOL when they land themselves in hot water.
Whatever is driving this trend it is eroding democratic accountability.
Surely the decision to front up shouldn’t depend on the calculated potential for a messaging upside.
Ultimately it shuts down the discourse… and journalists can’t speak truth to power if the powerful have taken the phone off the hook.
Over time this can easily harden into a pattern of total avoidance.