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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

Christchurch Truth

Christchurch Truth.

There is a strong disposition on the part of the Ministers to "gag" the press, but there is no indication, we are pleased to say, that members will back up the ridiculous proposals that have already emanated from the Minister of Lands. The "boycott" of certain journals which did not support the present Government did not have the desired effect, and now a further effort is to be made with a view to cramp the freedom of page 32 the press. The very name of a newspaper has the same effect on the Minister of Lands as a red rag has on a bull. The opposition to anything touching journalism is really farcical. Sir Robert Stout introduced a simple measure, having for its object the incorporation of the New Zealand Institute of Journalists, but strange to say it met with strong opposition, we suppose on account of the name. The chief effects of the Bill would be to enable the Institute to sue and to be sued, and to purchase and hold land of a total area not exceeding ten acres. The Institute was formed just over three years ago, and experience has proved that it is desirable that it should possess the very modest privileges which the Bill proposes to confer. The advantages sought do not approach those given to ordinary trades unions, and it is not easy to see why reporters and editors should not be allowed a little of what is given freely to those who practise mechanical occupations. As the Nelson Mail points out, the objects of the Institute of Journalists as set forth in the Bill do not include combination for increase of pay, or for shortening hours of work. There is nothing about eight hours a day, or nothing about a weekly half-holiday. It is proposed to test the qualification of candidates for admission to professional membership by examination, to collect information to provide friendly intercourse, to enable members when out of employment to procure employment and to accomplish various other laudable ends. Under such circumstances it is strange that members should have gone out of their way to bring about the shelving of such a measure. Our contemporary says:—"Mr. McKenzie and other Ministers and members who hate newspapers are singularly ungrateful. If it were not for the journals of the colony they would be almost unknown, and the greater part of their fame is due to the Opposition journals. It is all very well for Ministers, as they say, to go among the people and speak to them face to face, but the numbers that can be so met are small in proportion to the whole population, and the effect of unrecorded words is very fleeting. Without reporters a speech by Mr. Seddon at Hokitika or by Mr. McKenzie at Palmerston South would be well-nigh lost. As things are if a Minister makes an important speech, what he has said is made known not only to his hearers, but to those in the place who could not or would not attend the meeting, and to the people of the colony. It ought not to matter to the Ministers f unfriendly comments appear in the same papers as the reports. If their arguments are good they need not fear criticism. So long as the reports are fair, speakers have no cause of complaint, and among all the charges laid by Mr. McKenzie and others against newspapers we do not remember to have seen that of misrepresentation in reporting. What specially stings the thin skin of Mr. McKenzie is that the reports are fair, and that the comments are invariably just. He does not always get the better of the argument, and he is enraged accordingly. Every opportunity is given to him to state his case, but leave is reserved to state the other side also. This in his eyes is a high crime and misdemeanour. It is positively wicked to differ in opinion from the Minister of Lands, and most of the newspapers of any consequence differ from him on many points; therefore with that magnanimity which distinguishes him he does his best to prevent writers for the press from obtaining advantages which could be conferred without injuring a human being.