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MPs back ban on satirical footage

Published: 11:28AM Thursday June 28, 2007 Source: One News/Newstalk ZB

Anyone has the right to go to the public gallery at parliament and watch politicians in action.

But MPs have voted to pass new rules that will restrict what broadcasters can show people at home.

On Thursday night MPs voted overwhelmingly to amend the current rules to ban shots which satirise or denigrate MPs - like footage of them yawning, or nodding off in the House.

During the debate, Green MP, Nandor Tanczos, tried to delay the move by saying more time should be given for submissions. But he was overruled.

ACT MP Rodney Hide, has also voiced his opposition to the ban.

"MPs can be filmed walking down the street, they can be filmed at night - I don't see any problem with them being filmed in parliament," he says.

Labour MP Dover Samuels, however, disagrees.

"The problem is when you [the media] take a photo of me, you always take it of my bad side."

And it's not only journalists who will be restricted.

"When you're banning satire in the digital age, there are blogs out there and there are people out there, doing their own thing on the internet and they are not going to be able to use this footage either. It impinges not just on media freedom, it's everyone's freedom," says Vernon Small from the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

The ban on satire is based on Australian federal parliament rules but some say the public here has a right to see everything that goes on.

The Employment Court says you can sack workers for behaving inappropriately but it is okay at parliament, just as long as broadcasters don't show it.

The proposed restrictions have sparked a campaign of disobedience amongst political journalists, with many running satirical reports that breach existing guidelines.

However, Leader of the House, Michael Cullen, says journalists should wait and see how the new rules work, before they get too upset.

Because MPs have also voted to expand coverage of the debating chamber, Cullen says the rules actually allow more flexibility for the media.