CHRISTINE GODINET AGAINST STUFF
Case Number: 3307
Council Meeting: SEPTEMBER 2022
Decision: No Grounds to Proceed
Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
Comment and Fact
Headlines and Captions
Discrimination and Diversity
Photographs and Graphics
Ruling Categories: Misrepresentation
- Stuff published an article on August 18, 2022, headlined: The Covid-19 conspiracy theorists targeting Northland’s local elections. The story reported that a group of eight candidates is running for office in Northland espousing conspiracy theories and Covid-19 disinformation. It reported the group espoused debunked claims about United Nations sustainability goals and shared many of the same characteristics of the Voices for Freedom group, including spreading disinformation about Covid-19. It also reported anti-vaccine stances by several of the candidates and their views on other issues.
- Christine Godinet complained that the story misrepresented the facts and answers given by the founder of the “Sovereign” group, lied about the group’s intentions and included photos that linked them to the disinformation in the story. To support her claim she provided a transcript of written questions from a Stuff reporter and the group founder’s answers.
- Stuff Projects Director John Hartevelt responded to the complaint saying “I am satisfied the article you have referred to is fair and accurate. We stand by it.”
- The Media Council notes the story appears to be well founded. The most important points made by the group’s leader – that it was not aligned to the US “sovereign” movement and that the group did not have vaccine or anti-mandate policies – were reported.
- There is no indication that it is factually wrong or that comments taken from the interview with the group’s leader were misrepresented.
- The Council believes there is a significant public interest to justify reporting on the backgrounds, opinions and policies of candidates standing for public office. This article was in accord with that.
Decision: There were insufficient grounds to proceed.