CRAIG GEE AGAINST NZ HERALD
Case Number: 3413
Council Meeting: 26 JUNE 2023
Decision: Not Upheld
Publication: New Zealand Herald
Principle: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
Defamation/Damaging To Reputation
- The complaint relates to articles published by the NZ Herald over a period of four days about the visit of Kellie-Jay Keen–Minshull, otherwise known as Posie Parker, which it is said are unbalanced and defamatory. While the articles are one sided in voicing criticisms of Ms Keen Minshull, this was a long running issue going beyond the four day period with some balance being provided by publications in the period and there have been other NZ Herald articles out of the period providing more balance. It is not unfair to call Ms Keen-Minshull anti trans gender. The complaint is not upheld.
- This complaint is similar to that decided in the earlier decision (3402) Natasha Hamilton-Hart against the NZ Herald where a complaint about the NZ Herald coverage of the same events over a longer eight day period was dismissed and this decision should be read with that fuller decision.
- Craig Gee complains about the NZ Herald’s coverage from 22-26 March 2023. He says that the articles were defamatory with no impartiality or balance. He claims the NZ Herald whipped up readers into a frenzy of hatred for Ms Keen-Minshull by propagating disinformation about her and encouraging people to protest at her speaking events by printing details of where and when they could do so. He gives examples of a statement in articles on 23 and 25 March where the NZ Herald sets out details of where certain counter-protests are to be held. He says that an opinion piece of Shaneel Lal on the same page contained inflammatory and divisive language, misrepresenting the event and linking Ms Keen-Minshull with the Nazis, who he says turned up uninvited and unwanted.
- He says that the resulting violent protest at Albert Park was a consequence, where Ms Keen-Minshull’s supporters were pushed, stepped on and had people scream in their faces and that a 70 year old woman was punched in the face. He claims that the NZ Herald was instrumental in inciting violence.
- He says the reporting of Ms Keen-Minshull was focused on showing her in a negative light instead of reporting on the event she was speaking at. He stated that Ms Keen-Minshull usually speaks for only one to two minutes and then gives the microphone to local women to speak about their experiences and concerns.
- He claims that Ms Keen-Minshull was not ‘anti-transgender’ as the NZ Herald claimed multiple times but has the goal of the preservation of women’s rights and keeping women safe. She believes transwomen should have their own spaces.
- The NZ Herald rejects the claim that the coverage of Ms Keen-Minshull was defamatory with no impartiality of violence. The NZ Herald points out that Ms Keen-Minshull was interviewed a number of times and a reporter was at the airport when she arrived, when she was able to get her views across again. It is said that the NZ Herald also reported on her tweets and shared her videos. An example is given of her statement “I do not want men in spaces that women have carved out for themselves and I can’t work out why you would want to stop me from saying that”.
- The allegation that the NZ Herald “whipped up readers into a frenzy of hatred for Ms Keen-Minshull by propagating disinformation about her” is also rejected. Printing when events were to be held was not encouraging people to protest. This information was also given about Ms Keen-Minshull’s speech.
- It is said that nothing printed by the NZ Herald on the subject incited violence and everything printed about Ms Keen-Minshull was factual.
- The NZ Herald commented that there had been full reporting of the violence at the protests, including the 70 year old woman being punched. The case in relation to the 70 year old woman has been followed by the NZ Herald through the courts. The NZ Herald points out that Shaneel Lal’s opinions also exhorted no violence and asked for a peaceful protest, when expressed on social media.
- It is pointed out that it is a fact that Nazis attended the previous Melbourne event involving Ms Keen-Minshull. Immigration Minister, Michael Wood, is quoted as saying that he was concerned about the way in which Ms Keen-Minshull courts “some of the most vile people and groups around, including white supremacists”.
- Other NZ Herald coverage has quoted Ms Keen-Minshull as dismissing any association with Nazis, including a story where she says “they are absolutely not associated with me whatsoever. I absolutely abhor anything to do with Nazis. It is preposterous they even exist in 2023”.
- The complainant has focussed on the print edition of a number of articles about Ms Keen-Minshull’s visit. On an overview, the predominant comments in the articles are indeed strongly critical of her “women are women and men are men” views, said to be anti-trans, and those comments are largely sympathetic to the views of trans gender people.
- There is some balance within the articles. Ms Keen-Minshull’s views are summarised and the fact that efforts to stop her visiting the country have failed, is covered. The fact that she has supporters is made clear, as is the assault on the year 70 old woman supporter. On an overview, this coverage over four days is one-sided. Little balance from Ms Keen-Minshull’s perspectives and those of her supporters is provided.
- There are three opinion pieces. Two are articles from Shaneel Lal who is strongly critical of Ms Keen-Minshull and her views and Trans-exclusionary radical feminists they call (TERFS). The other is an editorial headed The Posie Parker effect which is exclusively critical of Ms Keen-Minshull and her views. There is nothing in the editorial which presents the views of Ms Keen-Mitchell’s supporters.
- However there can be no doubt that this is a long-running issue. In other coverage out of the period, as claimed by the NZ Herald, more balance is provided. This includes the prosecution of the person who assaulted Ms Keen-Minshull.
- It is correct that details of planned protests of those expressing views strongly opposed to those of Ms Keen-Minshull were published in some of these articles. We see no unfairness or lack of balance in that, as the details of Ms Keen-Minshull’s event were fully disclosed. Nor do we see any unfairness in the reports of the Melbourne event involving Ms Keen-Minshull as being attended by supporters who were Nazis. While there may be little to associate her personally with Nazi views and she has distanced herself from such groups, her supporters have plainly included Nazi groups. Public figures do not get to choose their supporters and in the circumstances the Nazi group was justly referred to as supporters, even if Ms Keen Minshull has not adopted their views.
- We note that there is a dearth of material actually issued by Ms Keen-Minshull where she sets out her position beyond bare statements of her position on the use of toilets and gender exclusivity in sport. As we have stated in earlier decisions the Media Council does not consider it misleading or inaccurate to refer to Ms Keen-Mitchell as anti-transgender. She prefers to call herself as a “woman’s rights activist”, but her views, such as her claims that trans women are not women as a matter of fact and that “transgender ideology is an existential threat to women”, are hostile to the views of trans people. She has not come out with clear statements indicating that she supports the ongoing protection of trans persons and their rights to be free from discrimination.
- We do however repeat the remarks made in the earlier decision. The Council thinks it would have been desirable for the views of those who think that those who are born women by gender should be entitled to single sex spaces, services and sport, to have been given more space over the four day period. While some of Ms Keen-Minshull’s views may be extreme and gratuitous, there are other views that should be put forward for debate.
- The Council is unwilling in the end to uphold the complaint given the short four day period involved and the fact that this is a long-running issue. It is to be expected that the NZ Herald will continue to publish the views of both sides of the debate. By and large the Council has no role in directing editors on what opinions they should publish. Media independence means that editors must be given considerable freedom to exercise their judgment in what is published on controversial issues. Readers may always get their news and commentary elsewhere.
- These factors, coupled with the balancing factors referred to within the articles themselves and other articles including ongoing coverage of the assault charge where a supporter of Ms Keen-Minshull was the victim, lead us to the conclusion that the Media Council principles have not been breached by these publications.
- The complaint is not upheld.
Council members considering the complaint were Hon Raynor Asher (Chair), Hank Schouten, Rosemary Barraclough, Tim Watkin, Jonathan Mackenzie, Jo Cribb, Marie Shroff, Alison Thom, Reina Vaai, Richard Pamatatau.