ANDY BOREHAM AGAINST MEDIAWORKS NEWSHUB
Case Number: 2936
Council Meeting: SEPTMBER 2020
Verdict: Not Upheld
Balance, Lack Of
Headlines and Captions
On 22 June Newshub published the article Hong Kong man in NZ feels targeted after Tinder match unloads CPC propaganda on him. The article presents the experience of one man who claims he was contacted via Tinder by someone he suspected was running a fake account to promote Communist Party of China (CPC) messages. The article includes screenshots of the conversation that focus on negative views of protestors in Hong Kong.
Andy Boreham complains about the article stating that it breaches Principle 1: Accuracy, fairness andbalance because the subject of the article has come to an incorrect conclusion that anyone who disagrees with him must be ‘somehow a CPC crony’ and the suggestions made in the story are serious and no attempt was made to seek comment from a CPC perspective.
He also complains that, under Principle 6 Headlines and captions, the heading is unfair in that there is no evidence that it is true; that is that the account was fake and promoting CPC messages.
Further, citing Principle 7: Discrimination and diversity, he complains that because the article suggests that people from mainland China are CPC sympathisers and are paid to spread propaganda, it insinuates people in New Zealand with Chinese heritage are ‘dangerous and untrustworthy.’ He argues that the New Zealand media should do its best to reduce the spread of unfair and discriminatory tropes and treat all people who call New Zealand home fairly.
Finally, he argues that the article goes against the statement in the Media Council’s preamble ‘there is no more important principle in a democracy than freedom of expression.’ The article, he argues, does so by suggesting that anyone who has a differing opinion must have been directed by a foreign government to do so.
MediaWorks responds by stating that that article did not make the claim that anyone with a point of view like the CPC is a CPC ‘sympathiser’. Rather the article reports on one man’s experience and his beliefs about them. The headline is clear that it is what the man feels happened and as such his views are not presented as facts. Further, given this story happens within the context of a long-running one (protests in Hong Kong), they were not persuaded it was necessary to include a pro-China perspective in this context.
As the article is the account of one man’s conversation on Tinder, and clearly labelled as this man’s interpretation of the conversation, and the conversation is reprinted as images in the article, the Media Council can find no instances of inaccuracy in the reporting. In terms of balance, the Media Council agrees with MediaWorks that this story should be considered as part of a long-running and on-going story so seeking a pro-China comment was not necessary; balance in perspectives should be achieved over time. Given this, there are no grounds to uphold the complaint under Principle 1: Accuracy, fairness andbalance. However as the article draws on a single source, the article could have better informed readers by seeking comments from different perspectives.
Principle 6 Headlines and captions states that they should “accurately and fairly convey the substance or a key element of the report they are designed to cover”. Given the article is about a man and his beliefs about a tinder match, the headline is accurate. This aspect of the complaint is not upheld.
Principle 7 states that publications should not place gratuitous emphasis on categories (gender, religion, minority groups, sexual orientation, age, race, colour, physical or mental disability).That the article is about a political situation related to one country and the country is mentioned does not amount to gratuitous emphasis. The article was not racist.
While the Media Council sympathizes with the complainant’s fear that readers may insinuate more than is included in the article, the article is newsworthy, accurate and does not constitute a breach of freedom of expression.
The complaint is not upheld.
Media Council members considering the complaint were Hon Raynor Asher, Rosemary Barraclough, Liz Brown, Craig Cooper, Jo Cribb, Ben France-Hudson, Jonathan MacKenzie, Hank Schouten, Marie Shroff, Christina Tay and Tim Watkin.