Case Number: 2653

Council Meeting: MARCH 2018

Decision: Not Upheld

Publication: New Zealand Herald

Ruling Categories: Sensationalism
Social Media
Tragedies, Offensive Handling of
Unfair Coverage


On January 3, 2018 the New Zealand Herald published an on-line article titled ‘Gable Tostee: Girl in glitter was looking for a fight’.Gable Tostee was acquitted of the murder of a New Zealand woman who fell to her death in a Gold Coast apartment.Mr Tostee posted comments on Facebook about the incident at Rhythm and Vines when a young woman’s chest was grabbed by a man.The young woman was wearing nothing but glitter art on her chest.

Mr Tostee’s Facebook comment begins by stating that everyone has the right not to be assaulted and the blame for an unprovoked assault should lie solely with the assailant.He then goes on to state that the girl should have expected attention given what she was wearing and that she was at a music festival with intoxicated people.He states that he thinks she was looking for a fight and she as well as the man involved should have been charged with assault.

The Herald article repeats his comments and includes pictures of the assault and screen-grabs of Mr Tostee’s Facebook post.

The Complaint

Mr Hobman complains that the continual use of Gable Tostee in stories is disrespectful to the victim’s family, by that he means the family of New Zealand woman who fell to her death on the Gold Coast.He considers this article as harassment of the woman’s family. He argues that Mr Tostee should not receive any media space and his comments on Facebook about on the young woman at Rhythm and Vines are ‘over the line’.

The Response

Oskar Alley, Senior Newsroom Editor, responds that while he notes Mr Hobman’s personal distaste of a man acquitted of a high profile crime, this is not a valid reason to cease reporting on Mr Tostee.Mr Alley also notes that theHerald has received no feedback from the Gold Coast woman’s friends or family and, as such, nothing to indicate that they feel harassed by the on-going coverage of Mr Tostee.

The Discussion

The Press Council Statement of Principles states that ‘a complainant may nominate other ethical grounds for consideration’.In this case Mr Hobman has raised issues about the merits and ethics of covering Mr Tostee’s Facebook comments. TheHerald has deemed such comments as news-worthy given the high profile nature of the man who made them.

Such a decision to publish, does not breach any of the Press Council’s Principles, nor have any other unethical grounds been established.

The Press Council does not deem the article constitutes on-going harassment of the family and friends of the deceased woman.There is some public interest in the activities of Mr Tostee given his high profile background.

The complaint is not upheld.

Press Council members considering this complaint were Sir John Hansen, Liz Brown, Jo Cribb, Chris Darlow, Tiumalu Peter Fa’afiu, Jenny Farrell, Hank Schouten, Christina Tay, Tim Watkin and Tracy Watkins.

John Roughan took no part in the consideration of this complaint.


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