Harré and non-disclosure of political commentators

Laila Harré’s political associations were well publicised late last month, but earlier in the month she was posing as a political commentator without disclosing her interests.

On May 3 Harré  was a panellist on The Nation. She is described on the programme website as “former Alliance MP and unionist”.

She was introduced on air as “former Alliance MP now political adviser”.

Yesterday Stuff reported:

Meanwhile, Norman revealed that new Internet Party leader Laila Harre had wanted to be a Green Party MP before she quit her adviser role in Decembern. 

A spokesman confirmed she was also on the campaign committee until a fortnight ago.

Being on the Green Party campaign committee is a very significant factor in assessing what Harré said. I remember at the time thinking that some of her comments sounded very party specific rather than simply left leaning.

This was also about the time she was talking to the Internet Party about joining and leading the party. On 29 May (Radio NZ “Laila Harre new Internet Party leader“) Harré said she had been approached “about a month ago” by Vikram Kumar and had met Kim Dotcom “about three weeks ago”.

It would have been awkward for Harré to disclose early discussions with the Internet Party but there is no excuse for not revealing her close involvement with the Green Party.

“Blogger and pollster” David Farrar was on the same The Nation panel, while his National associations are it is widely known in political circles casual viewers won’t be aware of them so that should also be disclosed each time Farrar appears as a commentator.

Why did Harré suddenly pop up on a political panel? She had been out of public political arena for some time until then.

This raises important questions.

How do political panellists get chosen? Is it entirely a function of the programme to seek a range of opinions? Or do political pundits (or their parties) promote themselves to get some airtime?

Disclosure of political interests should be a standard practice. Many viewers won’t know any affiliations, especially current involvement in political activities. Then viewers, listeners and readers can judge the comments of the commentator accordingly.

Without proper disclosure it is easy to assume some degree of neutrality.

Whether it is the programme that fails to properly disclose or it is the commentator who is lying by omission it is very poor practice.

It would be simple to make proper disclosures and should be a standard practice in political programmes.


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