CND AGAINST THE DOMINION

Case Number: 662

Council Meeting: JULY 1997

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: The Dominion

A complaint by the Wellington Branch of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament that a letter had not been published by The Dominion, has not been upheld by the New Zealand Press Council.

In the complaint the secretary of the branch John Hampton, said that between 1 March and Anzac Day, The Dominion published several reports suggesting that New Zealand’s military relationship with the United States should be or would be renewed. These included an editorial calling for an end to the ban on nuclear propulsion, which would restore the New Zealand-United States defence relationship. The CND was concerned that this would compromise New Zealand’s anti nuclear stance and wrote to the newspaper expressing this concern.

The letter was not published and the editor, Richard Long, wrote in reply explaining that the letter was not chosen from the many received each day. Mr Long indicated that short topical letters were given preference and that the CND had had a large number of letters published over the years.

In response to that, Mr Hampton wrote to the Press Council that the CND was concerned that, in an unprecedented way, it was being denied an expression of opinion when there had been substantial coverage of a potential change in New Zealand’s military relationship with the United States.

The Council does not uphold the complaint because the editor is entitled to rely on his discretion in choosing the letters for publication (this discretion is tempered only by instances where a particular person or group has been named and may be entitled to some response). The Council notes as a matter of general principle most New Zealand newspapers attempt over time to present all sides of topical issues. It is noted that in the past the CND has had its views published in The Dominion. The Council notes that this particular issue is ongoing and it may well be that in the future, if an appropriate letter is sent to the editor, it may be published.