Aug 19, 2013

Public bodies and public criticism

Public bodies and public functionaries aren't immune from criticism. If an organisation or person is performing a public function - like the Kohanga Reo National Trust Board - criticism comes with the territory.

The Kohanga Reo National Trust Board is accountable to the public. They operate with public money for the benefit of a segment of the public. That makes their attempt to stifle criticism anti-democratic, petulant and oppressive. Last week the board instructed their lawyers to inform TangataWhenua.com that they had published allegdly defamatory material. The letter demanded that TW.com remove the allegedly defamatory material. As is their duty, TW.com kept the material up and published the threatening letter.

The board has no moral right to threaten defamation. The criticisms directed at the board are part of the democratic process. The board isn't some private citizen with immunity from criticism. They're accountable to the public. It's a dark day for democracy when a public body attempts to silence its critics.

The board doesn't understand how a democracy works. It's not hard. The Minister of Maori Affairs must step in to clean up the mess that's been created.

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