Transparency and accountability are two of the characteristics that differentiate democracies and dictatorships.
In a democracy there is an expectation that the government will act in a transparent way, disclosing information on what they are doing, how and why, plus openly responding to reasonable enquiries for information from the public and media.
Dictatorships are notorious for their lack of transparency, the ways in which they operate behind closed doors and restrict or control the information which is made available to the public and the media to avoid being held accountable.
Transparency and accountability are intrinsically linked.
Members of the media have told me that they believe this is the least transparent States ever.
They also told me an email was sent to the media informing them that members of the Policy and Resources Committee required all questions to be supplied in writing in advance of interviews and assurances that no additional questions would be asked. Thus, controlling and restricting the media from challenging them in the normal manner people would expect.
Early in 2018 BBC Radio Guernsey were informed that the Policy & Resources Committee did not like the open format of the iconic Sunday Morning Phone-In segment, where people posed question on any subject. They wanted it restricted to a single topic. So undoubtedly, they could prepare responses and control the narrative.
When the BBC refused to comply, members of the Policy & Resources Committees refused to appear on the show.
On March 4th, 2019 the media were informed that they should not contact Deputies directly for comment or interview and that all enquiries should be sent through the central Communications group. Trying to bring to an end the days when a reporter could pick up the phone and call a Deputy direct and enabling greater centralised control.
In a similar incident; Deputy Mary Lowe used to organise a quarterly Saturday event at Beau Sejour. A table was provided for each of the principle States committees to man, enabling the public to approach them regarding any issues they wished to discuss.
Policy & Resources informed Deputy Lowe that they would no longer attend. I assume because of the uncontrolled nature of the event where members of the public could challenge them on any issue. Deputy Lowe informed them that she would continue to organise the event as a public service and P&R could choose not to man their desk.
When Deputy Lowe came to arrange the next event, she discovered that an Officer from P&R had cancelled all of her room bookings without even informing her and that the venue was no longer available on all her scheduled dates, forcing her to abandon this valuable public service.
These actions appear to be part of a longstanding campaign to restrict access by the media and public to question and challenge politicians and hold them accountable.
Deputies are elected to represent the pubic and I believe they have an obligation to promote transparency and be accountable for their actions.
I support the introduction of a Freedom of Information Law similar to those introduced in the UK in 2000, Jersey in 2011, the Isle of Man 2015 and other democracies which honour the principle of transparency.
This would enshrine in law the rights of both the media and public to question Deputies and the States of Guernsey.