NZ Herald under attack

The Standard has details of yet another issue relating to free speech, this time the “coalition for open government” launching a complaint to the press council on a NZ Herald editorial being misleading, as it omitted the fact one could spend $12 000 on free speech, without registering. I am interested in knowing how The Standard (maybe via the Labour Party) got hold of this descison. And I am also interested in knowing why my comments on the blog never appear.

The New Zealand Herald last year toke the noble step of running a campaign to inform people of the effects of the Electoral Finance Bill. Had the campaign not been run, many New Zealanders would have been ignorant of the Bill (now the Electoral Finance Act). As a result the newspaper drew much criticism from those on the left of the political spectrum.

The latest move shows that the “coalition for open government” and press council don’t understand that we (use to) live in a free society, and one of the cornerstones of a democracy and free society is freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Indeed it hard to see how democracy can function properly without these freedoms. Obviously there are some limitations on free speech (for instance shouting fire in a crowded theatre, child pornography, and defamtion are not protected by free speech). Freedom of the press means that the press have a right to say whatever they want, so the NZ Herald should be able to run an editorial entitled “vote Labour out” with a list of reasons why on election day, if they want.

As for the issue of whether the editorial was misleading, it would have been more honest if it did mention the $12 000, but at no point did the editorial state that every cent of political advertising would require registration. It is arguable that this was implied. In any case readers can view the editorial here themselves and make their own judgements about whether or not it was misleading. If this complaint is upheld (as the standard says it is) than any selective use of data or spin can be called misleading, and the newspaper behind it punished.

On the issue of what is misleading this is a clear cut case to me (see speech by Don Brash here): “This card was paid for and delivered by Labour supporters”, which was stated on the 1999 Labour Party pledge card. It really was paid for by Labour supporters- but also by National supporters, and the whole country, out of our taxes.

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7 Comments on “NZ Herald under attack”

  1. Tane Says:

    Hey Nicholas. I don’t know where John A heard about the decision, or even if it’s true, but I don’t see how it’s an attack on free speech.

    The Press Council is an industry body that papers sign up to to maintain journalistic standards. It’s not run by the governement.

    Your comments aren’t being deleted either – you’re probably just misentering the captcha. Flick us an email if you keep having trouble and we might be able to help.

  2. lprent Says:

    You aren’t on my banned lists. So as Tane says look at recaptcha. It is a bit of a pain, but extremely effective at keeping out spam.


  3. The above comments by Tane and Iprent were made when only the first paragraph of the post above had been published.

    The issue of comments not appearing has been resolved.


  4. Thinking the issue over, calling the complaint an “attack on free speech” was too harsh. I have changed the wording to a “issue related to free speech”.

  5. Michael Says:

    While, I believe the Herald was right to publish the horrendous failings of the EFB, they did have a responsibility to report all the facts. If they have been found wanting, too bad. I just wish Tane et al. would see how bad this legislation is.


  6. Micheal- I agree with you.

    However, if the complaint is upheld (and I’ve recieved no news on this other than whats from the Standard) it raises serious questions as to what the press can publish. For instance an editorial on Kiwis emigrating to Australia due to Labour could be called misleading if statistics showing similar numbers were emigrating under National.

    I also suspect that part of the reason for the complaint is to discredit the NZ Herald’s campaign on the issue.

  7. Tane Says:

    The complaint has been upheld:
    http://www.thestandard.org.nz/?p=1716

    I’m no expert on the Press Council’s rulings, but I’d imagine the scenario you put forward would not be found misleading. The Press Council is a seriously weak body and is widely considered to be in need of beefing up, which makes this complaint even more damning.


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