THE new rules for those attending the House of Assembly are anti-democratic and amount to an attempt to manage the media, a former senior parliamentarian charged last night.
After a “disturbing” video featuring “terrible images” was taken by someone in the gallery and posted on social media, it has been decided that only parliamentarians will be allowed to take cell phones into the House, photographs of MPs will only be allowed while they are standing to deliver an address, and cameras will not be allowed without written consent.
While The Tribune understands the House Speaker Kendal Major intends to announce the new regulations during today’s parliamentary session, a letter delivered to The Tribune yesterday outlined the changes.
The veteran MP, who wished to remain anonymous pending the official announcement of the new rules, said: “This is stupid. The public can see the proceedings from on their own televisions. Many record it.
“This goes totally against the base principle behind televising the proceedings in the first place.”
The former MP, a member of the FNM, said the decision by his party to televise the House was itself part of a larger move towards freedom, transparency and “deepening democracy”, exemplified by the opening of the airwaves to private radio stations.
“We can’t go back to the 1960s,” he said. “This is the New Bahamas.”
Despite the act of filming a video from the gallery being characterised as “something wrong” by the House of Assembly, the political veteran pointed out that members of parliament are paid to do the people’s business while in the House of Assembly, and there is no reason why anything they do while on the job should be shielded from public view.
Yesterday’s communication from parliament said:
“A number of video images of the House proceedings which had been uplinked to the social media of the Internet were brought to the Speaker’s attention.
“One of the images was photographed in the most clandestine manner, from the gallery between the benches. The person obviously knew that he/she was doing something wrong. It is most disturbing that a stranger would come inside this House, surreptitiously photograph the proceedings and then post the terrible images on the social media. This is indeed regrettable.
“The new rules of the House are:
• Only members of parliament will be permitted to bring cell phones into the chamber of the House of Assembly. Members of the news media and the general public must leave their cell phones downstairs with the House security officer.
• All members of the news media must have their photo identification badges issued by their respective media house with them and make them available for inspection by the House security officer upon request.
• Any person wishing to bring a video/television camera to the House for the purpose of photographing any live segment of the House proceedings must first have the written permission of the Speaker. The Sergeant of Arms or designate will not permit any video camera in the chamber without such written consent.
• iPads and tablets must not be used to take video footage of the House proceedings.
• As it relates to still photographers, I understand that this may be the only parliament in the Commonwealth that allows still photography in the chamber. But it has been the tradition locally to allow still photography. However, all of the media houses, including Bahamas Information Services, must submit the names of all photographers who may be sent to take images of members while they speak. “Only members standing and speaking will be allowed to be photographed and any person violating this rule will not be permitted to cover the House proceedings for a period of time to be decided by the Speaker.“
The communication was signed by Maurice Tynes, clerk of the House, who said the Speaker has instructed him to put these measures in writing and post them on the wall of the House, “for all to see.”