Media Freedom Committee launches new initiative as OIA complaints are on the rise

The Media Freedom Committee have created the the 'No Information Award'.
The Media Freedom Committee have created the the 'No Information Award'. Photo credit: Getty Images

A watchdog for journalists' rights has announced a new initiative to help counter the ongoing problems journalists face when it comes to accessing information from public agencies.

The Media Freedom Committee chair Miriyana Alexander said some organisations' are hindering journalists' efforts to access official information they are legally entitled to.

"Because, as agencies know, knowledge is power," said Alexander.

Official Information Acts (OIA) complaints are on the rise, with data from Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier showing complaints were up 8 percent from 2020, with 722 complaints in the first half of 2021.

Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA) also rose to 30 percent with 183 complaints in the same time frame.

The Committee, which represents several news outlets including Newshub, announced the 'No Information Award' as a "light-hearted" way to tackle frustrating interactions reports have when trying to gather information, particularly in Official Information Acts (OIA).

"Members unanimously and frequently express their concern about the way our journalists are being stymied when asking for information they're entitled to in their role as the eyes and ears of the public and a check and balance on the powerful," the Committee chair Miriyana Alexander said.

She says the situation appears to be getting worse.

"We believe strongly that there are some people at some agencies who operate outside the spirit - if not the letter - of the legislation," said Alexander.

The awards created include the Terrier Award, for the most tenacious journalist, the All Black Award, for the most redacted OIA response and the If You Didn’t Laugh Award, for the funniest reason for a response being rejected.. 

"We do want to acknowledge that there are lots of hard-working people doing their best to help journalists too," added Alexander. "That's why we’re including a Little Ray Of Sunshine award for the individual who has gone above and beyond in their commitment to transparency."

The winners will be announced on May 3 and will receive a certificate and the journalist who nominated them will win a $100 book voucher.