DOUG PINNELL AGAINST WAIMATE ADVERTISER

Case Number: 952

Council Meeting: NOVEMBER 2003

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Waimate Advertiser

Ruling Categories: Taste Lack of
Accuracy

Waimate resident Doug Pinnell complained to the New Zealand Press Council on August 20 about a number of contributed opinion columns titled Random Report that appeared in the Waimate Advertiser. The column, written by a local woman for no remuneration, has been a feature of the paper for some years. Mr Pinnell's complaint centred on what he called factual inaccuracies in some columns about the haka and Maori, and what he regarded as a personally offensive comment about euthanasia and abortion in another. The paper's response was that the column was one person's opinion only and was factually correct based on the material on which the writer relied.

The Press Council does not uphold the complaint.

Mr Pinnell took issue with Random Report's translation of the All Blacks haka, which he said was incorrect. He included an alternative translation from a book by Wira Gardiner. Random Report apparently used a translation from a 1960s English magazine. Although the Gardiner version may be more relevant now, there is nothing to prevent the use of the English version so the column is not factually incorrect. Mr Pinnell also said a comment in another Random Report, which stated there were no genuine Maori left in New Zealand, was also incorrect. He included a birth certificate as evidence that there were. Waimate Advertiser managing editor Don McCabe responded that Statistics NZ had no records of any full-blooded Maori. This point has been argued for many years and it is not the place of the Press Council to determine who is right in this case. It is obvious that the column's writer subscribes to the belief there are no full-blooded Maori. Mr Pinnell's last complaint was about a comment in a Random Report column that ``abortion and euthanasia really are acts of murder''. Mr McCabe responded that comment was the columnist's own opinion.

The Press Council upholds the concept of the right to free speech and while some of the columnist's opinions may be distasteful to some people, she is entitled to that view. As far as the factual inaccuracies are concerned, it appears the statements could be correct or incorrect depending on which evidence is accepted.