K R BOLTON AGAINST SUNDAY STAR-TIMES

Case Number: 1026

Council Meeting: AUGUST 2005

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Sunday-Star Times

Ruling Categories: Balance, Lack Of

Mr K R Bolton, a representative of the Wellington Committee of the National Front complains that an article published in the Sunday Star Times on 24 April 2005 under the headline “National Front angers Anzac vets” was inflammatory and sensationalist, and that the article failed to achieve balance and fairness. The article was accompanied by a recent photograph of the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, entering Auschwitz where she laid a wreath in memory of those who had died there.

The article was published the day before Anzac Day, and reported that the Chief Executive of the RSA, Pat Herbert, had received a number of e-mails from members who were angry and upset that members of the “neo-fascist” organization, the National Front, were intending to attend Anzac Day services around the country.

Mr Herbert was reported as saying that the organization “represented everything Anzac soldiers had fought against”.

Kyle Chapman, National Front director, was given several paragraphs to explain his views. He said that National Front members had attended Anzac Day services in previous years; his members were patriotic New Zealanders who stood by the flag; the National Front was working hard to remove members who promoted pro-Nazi views or were involved in rascist attacks on immigrants.

The article then went on to report that National Front websites frequently posted white supremacist and fascist views, and that their views were abhorrent to many RSA members and those who had lost family in World War II.

Finally, the article reported comments from the President of the RSA in New Brighton who said that the National Front were welcome to attend a parade in New Brighton provided that there were no protest signs or “hanky panky”. New Brighton is Mr Chapman’s “home ground”.

Mr Bolton complains that the article failed to mention what he believes to have been a concerted campaign against the National Front by Messrs Barrie Sargeant and Robert Trigan, two of those who had e-mailed the RSA. These gentlemen had also been quoted in the article. He further complains that the Sunday Star Times invariably portrays the National Front as a neo-nazi organization, linking its ideology with fascist people who are not members.

He maintains that placing the photograph of Helen Clark at Auschwitz is an example of dubious journalism, and that the paper has manipulated the RSA into supporting the views of “a small group of violence oriented smear-mongering self-styled ‘anarchists’.”

In response to Mr Bolton’s complaint, the Deputy Editor of the Sunday Star Times submitted that the paper had not connived with Messrs Sargeant and Robert Trigan to inflame the RSA against the National Front or manipulate their opinion. It simply reported the RSA’s view that National Front attendance at Anzac services would be disagreeable to them.

The paper had given good coverage to Mr Chapman’s views, did not offer any opinion on the story, and reported Mr Chapman as saying that his organistion was trying to remove members with pro-Nazi views.

The Press Council does not uphold Mr Bolton’s complaint. It found that the article was newsworthy, being published the day before Anzac Day. Clearly, as reported, the proposed attendance of National Front members at Anzac Day services was abhorrent to many RSA members although it was also reported that one branch at least was prepared to accept their presence at their service.

The National Front leader’s comments were quoted at length in the article. The photograph of Helen Clark entering Auschwitz was newsworthy, and also linked appropriately with the article alongside.

The Press Council did not find that the article was inflammatory. It found that the article was balanced and fair, given the sensitivity of the issues raised.

Mr Bolton further complained about the non-publication of a letter to the editor on this topic, which he had written some months previously. The Press Council has always maintained that the selection of letters to be published is the prerogative of the editor, and has not upheld that complaint either.

Press Council members considering this complaint were Barry Paterson (Chairman), Aroha Puata, Lynn Scott, Alan Samson, Murray Williams, Denis McLean, Clive Lind, Terry Snow and John Gardner.