ALASTAIR HASKETT AGAINST NEW ZEALAND HERALD
Case Number: 3174
Council Meeting: DECEMBER 2021
Decision: No Grounds to Proceed
Publication: New Zealand Herald
CASE NO: 3174
RULING BY THE NEW ZEALAND MEDIA COUNCIL ON THE COMPLAINT OF ALASTAIR HASKETT AGAINST THE NEW ZEALAND HERALD
FINDING: INSUFFICIENT GROUNDS TO PROCEED
DATE: DECEMBER 2021
The New Zealand Herald ran an article on December 12, 2021, headlined Paul Catmur: Do we really want the country to be run like a business?
The opinion piece, which discussed the then newly elected National Party leader Christopher Luxon, was illustrated with artwork of a dark suited man with a blanked-out face roughly in the shape of an egg.
Alastair Haskett said the image clearly implied Mr Luxon was an egghead. That lacked balance and was inappropriate. It was another example of the Herald being partisan and doing the dirty work for its financial provider, the current Labour Government. This was anti-democratic. He said that the “egghead” picture was a statement rather than an opinion. It also discriminated on the prohibited grounds of employment status, namely being a former businessperson.
The Media Council considered the illustration as a cartoon - a form of expression in which the media have a long history of depicting public figures as caricatures. This was relatively mild in any adverse inference that might be drawn.
Cartoons can wildly exaggerate or be cruel in the way they depict public figures. Politicians in a democracy have learnt to accept that they can be skewered by the pen. Cartoons and satire celebrate the point that there is no more important principle in a democracy than freedom of expression.
A cartoon depicting Mr Luxon as an “egghead” does not prove that the Herald is partisan or doing “dirty work” for the Government. Politicians are not a protected category under the Media Council discrimination and diversity principle and no case has been argued for breaches of other Media Council principles.
There were insufficient grounds to proceed.