It was a long journey until my liveblog tomorrow morning from the visitors balcony at the Austrian Parliament. Not because of technical problems but because of the Parliament’s house rules which are apparently from a time when modern citizen journalism, smartphones and tablets weren’t invented.
When I was ready to start my first liveblog at 8.40 am, one of the security people suddenly told me that I would have to switch off my iPad when the parliamentary session starts at 9 am. While the Parliament aims at being open, transparent and in touch with citizens on its new website, its house rules drastically diminish the opportunities for state-of-the-art communication as they forbid cell phones and other objects that may be a danger or disturbance to the parliamentary session or to the dignity of the institution.
So, I had the pleasure to discuss this issue with two people from the security team and with their boss. To talk with them about the intentions of my liveblog. To assure them that it’s possible to silently type on the iPad. To explain them that due to strict media rules, there’s no other possibility for citizen journalism in the Parliament.
To convince them of my interest in the budget speech and my knowledge of the house rules. To make them aware of the discrepancy between the open website and the strict house rules of the Parliament. And to tell them that I already had my iPad and iPhone with me during past parliamentary debates.
In the end, thanks to their rationality and kindness, I was allowed to use the iPad for this single parliamentary session. But I was also told that there would probably be similar problems in the future. So, after a 45-minute discussion with the security people, I was ready for the budget speech and my first liveblog from the Austrian Parliament.
Nevertheless, these events showed me that our Parliament still has to work a lot on its closeness to citizens. It has to accept that citizens not only want to listen to parliamentary sessions but also share their insights and opinions live from the Parliament via blogs and social media.
Open data efforts, press accreditations for bloggers or a comprehensive video archive are further ideas to foster modern citizen journalism on political issues. Moreover, electronic petitions or the integration of social media tools on the Parliament’s website could also improve citizen engagement. All of these recommendations could be implemented in a fairly quick and inexpensive manner.