WELLINGTON: New Zealand TV networks have given a metaphorical two-fingered salute to Kiwi politicos who recently imposed a ban on using televised images from parliament's debating chamber to poke fun at or satirize these frangible elected beings [WARC News: 29-Jun-07].

TVNZ, TV3, Maori Television and Sky News insist they will ignore the ban. Says TVNZ director of news Anthony Flannery: "The public has a right to see how their elected representatives behave and perform in Parliament - warts and all."

He continued: "The banning of the use of images from the debating chamber for satire is a precious over-reaction by MPs and unnecessarily puts limits on New Zealanders' understanding of politics."

TV3 news director Mark Jennings is of like mind, declaring "New Zealanders should have this approach to politics available to them". He added that "light-hearted and satirical coverage of politics is as old as the news media itself".

"This is such a serious issue about ... democratic rights that our competing organisations are prepared to back each other up if one is penalised for ignoring this part of the new rules."

Breaches of the new rules, voted-in last month, will be regarded as contempt of parliament - for which the ultimate penalty is imprisonment.

Although at present the restrictions apply only to television, press journalists see them as the thin end of a wedge and are supportive of their counterparts in the rival medium.

The moves have also been criticised as an attack on free speech by the Commonwealth Press Union's media freedom committee.

Deputy prime minister Michael Cullen has accused journalists of overreacting.

Data sourced from nzherald.co.nz; additional content by WARC staff