BYRON CUMMINS AGAINST NEWSHUB AND STUFF

Case Number: 3232

Council Meeting: MARCH 2022

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Ruling Categories: Accuracy
Balance, Lack Of
Comment and Fact
Discrimination
Apology and Correction Sought
Deception or Subterfuge
Photographs
Unfair Coverage

Overview

Newshub ran an article on March 2, 2022, headlined Jacinda Ardern surveys damage to Parliament grounds as police confirm pepper spray foam bullets used during clash. It ran a story the following day headlined Wainuiomata residents rush to protect marae as protesters plan occupation.

Stuff published a story on March 16, 2022, headlined Trashed parliament grounds reopen to the public after occupations violent end.

Byron Cummings complained these were biased and “directive” headlines which did not truly reflect actual occurrences and sought to blame a sector of the public.

He said the headlines were inflammatory and indicated the occupiers trashed the grounds when the police actually trashed the grounds in their clearance operation.

He also complained that the reporting was not balanced and targeted all peaceful protesters. They were blamed as the cause for the clean-up when Parliament’s Speaker Trevor Mallard caused many issues when he turned the ground sprinklers on. Footage showed the grounds were kept clean and respected during the occupation, but they were being blamed for leaving it a mess after the camp was trampled down by the police. Problems were caused by a fringe element and not the main body of protesters.

Discovery’s Standards Committee responded to the complaint against the two Newshub articles. It said Newshub had reported extensively on the anti-mandate protests at Parliament and balance on the issue could be expected to be achieved over a range of stories over a period of time.

It said the first article focussed on the assessment of the grounds after the protest ended. It examined factors that led to the damage and also reported the police response. The Standards Committee was of the view that the protestors contributed to the state of the grounds. The Speaker’s management of the protest had been widely reported and readers would have been aware of this and could judge for themselves the role those actions contributed to the state of the grounds.

When discussing the children’s playground, care was taken to specify fire starters had cause that damage rather than referring to all protesters being responsible. The article’s reference to “an angry

violent mob with no regard for police” was not a statement that all protesters were involved in the clash.

The Media Council can find no substance to this complaint, specifically as it related to the headlines used in the three articles mentioned.

Media Council Principle 6 (Headlines and captions) states: Headlines, sub-heading and captions should accurately and fairly convey the substance or a key element of the report they are designed to cover.

The Council considers the headlines to be restrained, neutral and clearly reflecting key points from the articles. Similarly, the articles seem well-balanced showing actions that could be interpreted as not reflecting well on either side. Given the intense focus on the protest throughout its duration all the issues were fully covered by the media, including Newshub and Stuff.

Mr Cummins has not supplied evidence to support his complaint that Newshub or Stuff breached Principles 1 (accuracy, fairness and balance), 4 (comment and fact), 7 (discrimination and diversity), 9 (subterfuge), 11 (photographs and graphics) or 12 (corrections).

There were insufficient grounds to proceed.

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