CASE NO: 574, 575

The Press Council has dismissed one complaint and upheld a second complaint by Ms Carol Parker against the Sunday Star-Times in respect of an article about the Moutua Gardens occupation published on 26 March.

The first complaint alleged that the article involved "bias, inaccuracy and obvious racism." The article began by saying "rising tensions at Moutua Gardens have forced police to set up a special team to examine how to control the increasing number of protesters." It also referred to intimidation by gang members and convicted violent criminals. Ms Parker having been there during the weekend in question said that it was an incredibly relaxed environment and there were no signs of intimidation. Ms Parker considered the quality of the reporting unacceptable and suggested that an article on the occupation could have contained some balanced information.

The editor in his reply to the Council said the report was a straight news story, devoid of editorial comment in reporting a police view of the situation in the Gardens and that there was no bias or racism apparent on the part of the authors. On the question of balance, the editor stated that although the item dealt with a particular development in an ongoing story, in subsequent editions on the same day, views by a Maori negotiator were included.

In view of the fact that the article reported police views of developments and that the editors had no grounds for questioning these views as a news item, the Council has dismissed the complaint.

The second complaint concerned the reporting of the drowning of a 15 months old child at the Gardens the previous Thursday. The report stated that the child's unemployed father had been remanded to appear in Court on two charges of theft and one of preparing to commit a crime.

The complainant said she had never read anything in such bad taste and that the father's court appearance was irrelevant. The editor defended the statement on the grounds that it was factual.

The Council's view is that the report concerning the tragic death of a small child was so offensive as to be unacceptable in a newspaper. This seems to have been tacitly accepted by the editor as the story was deleted from subsequent editions. The complaint has been upheld.


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