BOB MCCOSKRIE AGAINST NEW ZEALAND HERALD
Case Number: 3233
Council Meeting: March 2022
Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed
Publication: New Zealand Herald
Balance, Lack Of
Defamation/Damaging To Reputation
Headlines and Captions
The New Zealand Herald published an article on February 16, 2022, headlined Enjoy the victory’: Activist calls for celebration despite death threats after conversion therapy ban. The story reported that a note which said “hang yourself” had been left on the doorstep of Shaneel Lal, the leader of End Conversion Therapy group, the morning after Parliamentary passed a new law that Lal had campaigned for.
Bob McCoskrie complained that the article made groups and individual who opposed the Bill look very bad and willing to physically threaten people.
He asked what steps were taken to confirm the claim, what evidence was gathered, whether a complaint was made to the police and, if there was no evidence or formal complaint, why was this a key feature or even included in the story?
He argued the story was based on a spurious claim.
The New Zealand Herald rejected the complaint. He said the article explained Lal burnt the threatening message and opted against laying a complaint with police, a decision entirely at Lal’s discretion.
The Herald said it was a long bow indeed to claim the note was sent by any of the groups or individuals who opposed the law change, especially as none were named in the article.
The Media Council does not accept the complainant’s case. The story has not been shown to be inaccurate. There is nothing to indicate that Lal did not receive the note or that Lal’s word on this is in question.
The fact that something cannot be corroborated does not prove it to be false or preclude it from being reported or put in a headline.
The Council also finds there can be no basis for claiming the death threat reflects badly on all of the Bill’s opponents, as plainly any such note would have been sent only by an extremist.
There were insufficient grounds to proceed.