PETER MALCOURONNE AGAINST THE NEW ZEALAND HERALD

Case Number: 586

Council Meeting: SEPTEMBER 1995

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: New Zealand Herald

A complaint to the New Zealand Press Council that a report appearing in the New Zealand Herald was inaccurate, has not been upheld. However the Council held the newspaper's subsequent coverage was deficient.

On 4 May the Herald ran a story headlined "Security nearly breached." The story reported the comments of Police Superintendent Bryan Rowe, who praised police restraint in the face of a student protest outside Aotea Square in Auckland. The students were protesting at the Asian Development Bank meeting.

On 3 August, after having earlier complained to the New Zealand Herald, Peter Malcouronne made an official complaint to the Press Council. Mr Malcouronne alleged the story was factually inaccurate, biased and unbalanced. He complained there was no student view reported to counter Mr Rowe's claims that the police had acted with restraint.

Mr Malcouronne was particularly concerned about Mr Rowe's comments in the story that police had not drawn their batons. Mr Malcouronne, who was involved in the protest, said batons had been drawn and several hundred students had witnessed the police action.

He pointed out that the Auckland University Students' Association had sent a press statement to the Herald on the afternoon of 4 May rejecting Mr Rowe's claims that police had not drawn their batons. The Association had also sent faxed copies of photographs of police with batons drawn. Yet the Herald did not act on the statement and no follow-up story appeared.

In response, the Herald said the story Mr Malcouronne complained about was a sidebar to a page one story which had covered the protest in detail. The sidebar story had clearly been a report of the police view of the protest. In part it had been run because Mr Rowe's comments had been unusually unrestrained.

The Herald said none of its reporters nor photographers had seen the police draw their batons and, therefore, there was no reason for its reporter to challenge Mr Rowe when he claimed batons had not been drawn.

The newspaper had tried to get comment on the students' association press statement, but had been unable to contact association president Brendon Lane. Nor did it feel the faxed photographs, which were unclear, proved anything.

Mr Malcouronne was unimpressed with the Herald's response, saying he could not understand how the paper had failed to get hold of a student representative once it had received the students' association's press statement. However Mr Malcouronne's complaint is about the story on 4 May, not the newspaper's failure to follow it up.

The Press Council accepts the 4 May story was clearly identified as a report of the police view of the protest. It was a valid story, and the Council declines the complaint.

However, the Council notes its disappointment that the Herald failed to run any subsequent stories reporting the students' view of the protest, particularly given the students' association had evidence that the police had drawn their batons. In this respect the Herald's subsequent coverage was deficient.

Mr Peter Scherer,editor of the New Zealand Herald, who is a member of the Press Council was not present at the meeting when the complaint was considered.