2 Jul 2020

Cook Islands Speaker refrains from banning journalist

10:31 pm on 2 July 2020

The Speaker of the Cook Islands parliament, Nikki Rattle, had decided not to ban journalist, Rashneel Kumar, from reporting parliament.

The speaker of the Cook Islands parliament Niki Rattle.

The speaker of the Cook Islands parliament Niki Rattle. Photo: RNZ/Daniela Maoate-Cox

Mr Kumar is the political editor at the Cook Islands News and had written a story about travel privileges for spouses of MPs from the outer islands.

His access had come under threat after a number of parliamentarians, including Prime Minister Henry Puna, said the story was unfair and called for him to be banned.

The International Federation of Journalists said such a move was disproportionate and a threat to parliamentary coverage.

Ms Rattle said the associated headline was unfair and the use of the word "demand" in the beginning of the article was inaccurate.

The Cook Islands News editor Jonathan Milne had earlier acknowledged that "demand", though correct, was a poor choice of word, and apologised for the use of it.

The Speaker said Mr Milne had taken responsibility for the headline and introduction but she acknowledged the reporting was accurate, so it would be unfair to ban the journalist involved.

Mr Milne welcomed the Speaker's ruling that Mr Kumar's reporting was accurate.

"He is a good and principled journalist."

However Ms Rattle warned if it happened again, regardless of who wrote the headline or article, the journalist would face being banned.

Mr Milne was concerned at the warning though.

"I fear this may have a chilling effect on fair and accurate reporting of matters of public interest."

Cook Islands Parliament.

Cook Islands Parliament. Photo: Wikimedia Commons