Case Number: 3480

Council Meeting: February 2024

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Radio NZ

Principle: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance

Ruling Categories: Misrepresentation

RNZ published a five-paragraph story on its website on 4 December 2023 headed President of COP28 denies need to phase out fossil fuels. It quoted the Guardian as saying the COP28 president Sultan al-Jaber said there was “no science” indicating that a phase-out of fossil fuels was needed to restrict global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The story led into an interview on RNZ with Oil Change international global industry lead David Tong, discussing COP28. 

Bernard Jennings complained that Sultan al-Jaber's comments were misreported and taken out of context.  Mr Jennings says the statement attributed to Sultan al-Jaber, “There is no science out there or scenario out there that says that the phase out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5” was wrong. He had listened to the original interview conducted by former Irish president Mary Robinson, and it was clear English was Sultan al-Jaber's second language. “When he said ‘science’, it was followed by linguistic fillers ‘er, er..’ after which he corrected himself and said ‘scenario’. His statement in the end was that there is no scenario not no science,” Mr Jennings said. Further on in the interview Sultan al-Jaber said phasing out was inevitable and essential, which was less sensational but clarified the position, Mr Jennings said. 

RNZ says the quote was correct and that RNZ published a further story the next day that clarified Sultan al-Jaber's position. 

Mr Jennings also complains about the reporting of some other matters in the interview with Ms Robinson, but they were not published by RNZ therefore are outside the scope of this complaint. 

RNZ said they believed the quote was correct and the Media Council notes it has been widely reported this way. Members of the Media Council have listened to the interview and agree that it was reported correctly. The Council can understand Mr Jennings’ concern that Sultan al-Jaber's position was reported in a simplified way, with little context, but this was a very brief piece to lead into a broader story about COP28 and more context about Sultan al-Jaber’s views was given in a story published by RNZ the next day. 

Decision: There were insufficient grounds to proceed.


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