BEN VIGDEN AGAINST NEWSHUB
Case Number: 2717
Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed
Balance, Lack Of
Defamation/Damaging To Reputation
Ruling by the New Zealand Media Council on the complaint of Ben Vigden against Newshub
Finding: No grounds to proceed
Date: October 2018
Ben Vigden complained about a Newshub article published on 8 August, 2018 and headlined1080 Activism: Going Down the Conspiracy Wormhole.
Mr Vigden said the article suggested 1080 activists were deranged and violent and aimed to reflect those who oppose 1080 as being primarily uneducated, paranoid and delusional, when the reality is the movement is made up of a diverse cross section.The story included details designed to reinforce the idea of anti-1080 as being non-scientific, irrational, delusional and insinuates 1080 activists regularly engage in violent dangerous behaviour.
It was also unbalanced in that it did not cite any 1080 activists. Nor was there any contact with the administrators of a social media page mentioned in the article or recognised 1080 experts.
Newshub senior legal counsel Tom Turton said the article was limited to an examination of the views of only fringe anti-1080 activists and was not a detailed examination of the attitude of all, or even a majority, of anti-1080 campaigners
He added that the article did not need to report the views of mainstream opponents or report on acts of violence against anti-1080 campaigners for example.
In terms of accuracy he said the article clearly identified the source of the theories (i.e. comments posted on the Operation Ban 1080 Facebook page), how they were collected and processed and by whom.
The Facebook page comments were prompted by a question asking people what was the real underlying agenda for using 1080?
The Media Council notes that it was probably expected that a question like that on social media forum would draw a lot of flippant or facetious answers.
Nevertheless, a researcher broke down the almost 200 responses, grouped them into categories and concluded 40 per cent believed human extermination was the ultimate goal. Smaller numbers cited “control of the world through food supply” and “mining DoC land.” Newshub ran her analysis and comment as well as comment from Forest and Bird chief executive Kevin Hague. It also sought comment from the Ban 1080 Party and its Facebook page.
While 1080 is the subject of continuing debate and controversy this was an article about the responses to one question posed on a Facebook page. It did not breach Media Council principles of accuracy, fairness and balance.
Finding: No Grounds to proceed