Text message to Prime Minister from journalist concerning ponytail pulling incidents - no blanket confidentiality for ‘off the record’ communications
Two complaints were made to the Chief Ombudsman about the Prime Minister’s refusal of requests made under the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA) for communications that he or his Office had with a journalist for the New Zealand Herald, Ms Rachel Glucina, regarding the pulling of a waitress’ hair by the Prime Minister at Rosie, a cafe in Parnell (Rosie Cafe).
At issue in this case was a single text message that was sent by Ms Glucina to the Prime Minister on 22 April 2015.
The Prime Minister’s Office stated ‘it is not the practice of the media team or the Prime Minister to divulge details of the communications from journalists’ and refused the request on grounds of privacy (section 9(2)(a)) and that it was subject to an obligation of confidence (section 9(2)(ba)). The Prime Minister asserted that he did not believe there was an overriding public interest in disclosure.
In the circumstances of this case, the Chief Ombudsman formed the opinion that it was not necessary to withhold the information to protect either the privacy interests of the individuals concerned or any obligation of confidence to Ms Glucina.
The Chief Ombudsman said that there is no blanket protection for ‘off-the-record’ communications between Ministers and members of the media. He was clear that each case must be considered on its own merits.
This case note is published under the authority of the Ombudsmen Rules 1989. It sets out an Ombudsman’s view on the facts of a particular case. It should not be taken as establishing any legal precedent that would bind an Ombudsman in future.