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Student media press pass under threat

13 March, 2024

Interview by Castor Chacko, adapted by Mahdhi Osman-Penrice

Salient News Co-Editor, Ethan Rogacion, says removing student journalists from the press gallery is silencing a critical voice in the media.

Salient, the Victoria University of Wellington’s student magazine, has held the only student press pass on behalf of the Aotearoa Student Press Association (ASPA) for almost 20 years.

The pass allows access to Parliament for ministerial press conferences and post-cabinet meetings without requiring permission from ministers on a case-by-case basis.

On 27 February, Speaker of the House, Gerry Brownlee, announced he would be revoking the ASPA press pass, limiting student journalists' access to parliament.

In a letter written to Brownlee, seven student magazines across the motu, including Tāmaki Makaurau’s Craccum Magazine and Debate Magazine, as well as the presidents of Victoria University of Wellington, University of Canterbury, and Lincoln University students' associations, urged Brownlee to reinstate Salient’s press gallery membership.

On 7 March, Brownlee granted Salient swipe card access to parliament and the press gallery, but this is set to expire in three months.

Brownlee has ordered an internal review of the access card allocation system, citing security concerns. Salient’s press pass will be reinstated pending the outcome of this review.

Salient News Co-Editor, Ethan Rogacion, told 95bFM’s The Wire Brownlee’s justification of security concerns for denying student media access is inconsistent with his actions.

“At the same time he is denying our access, he is granting more access to political lobbyists,” says Rogacion.

Since becoming speaker, Brownlee has reportedly approved swipe card access for four publicly undisclosed people, who he said could be described as having ‘lobbying roles’. 

Rogacion argues by taking away the ASPA press pass, Brownlee would be silencing the student voice.

“It makes it a lot harder for Salient and other student magazines to scrutinise the government's actions and ask questions that only student magazines are able to.”

Rogacion says what is “unique” and “special” about student journalism is that they can write how government decisions are directly impacting students.

“To make it harder for us to access ministers undermines the idea of media plurality.”

Listen to the full interview

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air