ANDY ESPERSEN AGAINST HEALTH CENTRAL

Case Number: 2750

Council Meeting: FEBRUARY 2019

Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Health Central

Ruling Categories: Editorial Discretion
Letters to the Editor, Closure, Non-Publication
Obligation to Publish

Overview

CASE NO: 2750

RULING BY THE NEW ZEALAND MEDIA COUNCIL ON THE COMPLAINT OF ANDY ESPERSEN AGAINST HEALTH CENTRAL

FINDING: NO GROUNDS TO PROCEED

DATE: FEBRUARY 2019

On January 20, 2019 Andy Espersen submitted an opinion piece for publication inHealth Central. The piece called for more debate over the report emanating from the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction published some two months earlier. The piece also included a“rather scathing criticism of the Mental Health Inquiry Commission” [Mr Espersen’s words]. It set out his views on a return to “protective” psychiatric hospitals, particularly for those with schizophrenia – views he says he is well-known for expressing.

The piece was briefly published on Health Central’s web page before being taken down by the editor in response to“multiple complaints about its content describing it as “inaccurate” “stigmatizing”, “discriminatory” and “offensive”.” The editor noted she did not take the decision to retract the article lightly, but she did feel it necessary to exercise editorial discretion on this occasion.

Mr Espersen complains that the retraction of his article is unfair and “akin to the burning of books in the old days”. He notes this is the third complaint dealing with schizophrenia he has felt obliged to take to the Media Council within a couple of years. [Neither of the previous complaints was upheld.]

It is clear that Mr Espersen has strongly held views on schizophrenia and the current treatment of those with the condition. It is also clear that his views are not widely held, but he is entitled to hold those views, and to publish them himself; but he is not entitled to expect they will be published on websites owned and run by others.

Equally, editors have the right to choose what they publish or decline to publish. It follows that the editor ofHealth Central is entitled to take down an article if she changes her mind on the merits of publication.

The Media Council finds no grounds to proceed with the complaint.

Finding: No Grounds to Proceed