CHRISTOPHER LONGHURST AGAINST TVNZ

Case Number: 2933

Council Meeting: AUGUST 2020

Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: TVNZ

Ruling Categories: Accuracy

Overview

On July 14, 2020 TVNZ published ‘Ashamed’ Head of Fiji Catholic Church apologises over alleged child sexual abuse. The article provided comment from Archbishop Peter Chong in response to revelations about alleged abuse of Fijian children by priests.

The article also included comment from Dr Murray Heasley of the Network of Survivors in Faith Based Institutions. There were four differently styled references to Dr Heasley throughout the aarticle and video.

One sentence stated Dr Heasley who leads a support group for survivors, is aware of the alleged Fijian Catholic abuse cases.

It was this sentence that drew a complaint from Christopher Longhurst. Mr Longhurst advised that TVNZ’s use of the term was incorrect. ‘Support group’ had a specific connotation and he had been advised by a member of the group that the group does not offer professional peer support or other professional support. Mr Longhurst says TVNZ is trying to rationalise its error by playing on the equivocal meaning of the term “support”.

After receiving his initial complaint TVNZ changed the sentence to read Dr Heasley, who leads a network for survivors.In their response they noted that support comes in a variety of ways, not necessarily in terms of professional support. They provided several examples that reported on Dr Heasley’s support of survivors of sexual abuse.

The Media Council is of the view that support can be provided in a number of ways and does not necessarily mean support by professionally trained persons. In a specialist publication, "support" might have a narrower meaning, but in a general news publication it can perfectly well mean any sort of support and certainly includes a survivors' network.

We note that TVNZ changed the sentence but we do not regard it as having been necessary. It is not unusual for publications to provide different descriptors for a person within an article.They could equally well have described Dr Heasley as leading an advocacy group, but it is clear that support is one of the functions of the group and this was not inaccurate.

Finding: Insufficient Grounds to Proceed.

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