GLENN BOYLE AGAINST THE PRESS / STUFF

Case Number: 3132

Council Meeting: OCTOBER 2021

Decision: Not Upheld

Ruling Categories: Accuracy
Balance, Lack Of

Overview

[1] Glenn Boyle complains about an article Government’s apology for dawn raids ‘just the beginning’, Pasifika youth say published by The Press on 3 August 2021 (and online by Stuff on 2 August 2021). The complaint falls to be decided under Media Council Principle 1: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance. The complaint is not upheld.

 

The Article

 

[2] The article reported on the response of a group of young Pasifika from Ōtautahi (Pacific Youth Leadership and Transformation) to the Government’s apology for the racially targeted ‘dawn raids’ on overstayers from the Pacific. In addition to describing the experiences of some members of group, including efforts to secure an apology and hopes for the future, it noted one member’s statement that:

 

 “My great aunty was one of the first Polynesian people in Ōtautahi Christchurch, she emigrated here after the second world war. She was one of the first caught up in the raids here, she protected people.”

The Complaint

[3] Glenn Boyle complains that The Press failed to check the truth of the claim that dawn raids had happened in Christchurch and has published false and offensive statements. His memory of that time and his own research suggest that the dawn raids did not occur in Christchurch. In support of this he provided the Media Council with statements from two former members of the police, both of which state there were no dawn raids in Christchurch.

 

[4] Dr Boyle also complains that although he contacted The Press on 4 August 2021 and the editor undertook to get back to him after an investigation, after 12 working days he had not heard anything further. He does not accept the editor’s explanation for why there was no response to a second email. He also disputes The Press’s assertion that some further research carried out since the article was published appears to contradict the statements he has obtained from former officers. He considers that, at a minimum, The Press should restore balance by publishing the accounts he has obtained.

The Response

[5] The editor of The Press accepts that the complainant contacted the newsroom to challenge the account of the dawn raids presented in the article and asking for a retraction and apology. At that stage he did not provide the statements from former police, which have been provided to the Media Council. The editor responded promptly assuring him that The Press would investigate the points he had made. The editor asked a reporter to begin researching the history of the dawn raids in Christchurch, including making Official Information Act requests from the police.  The editor saw no need to immediately retract the article, based on the complaint’s memory or his claims of support from, at that stage, anonymous former police officers. 

 

[6] The editor did not see a second email sent by the complainant as it was sent outside office hours and she was asleep. It was missed the next day due to pressure of other work. The editor apologises to Dr Boyle for this oversight.

 

[7] The article was not an in-depth investigation; it was simply a story reporting on a Christchurch based group’s reaction to a major national announcement. The comment about dawn raids occurring in Christchurch was made in this context and it is not usual newsroom practice to insist on documentary evidence for an individual or family account of a personal experience (unless there is some reason to doubt its veracity).

 

[8] The complainant’s assertion that no dawn raids happened in Christchurch was deserving of in-depth research. This has begun but will take months.

 

[9] The editor has provided the Media Council with some of this initial research but does not consider that, at this stage, there is sufficient information to suggest the article contains errors and she considers it would be premature to make any correction, retraction or apology.

The Discussion

[12] This case falls to be decided under Media Council Principle 1: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance, which states:

 

Publications should be bound at all times by accuracy, fairness and balance, and should not deliberately mislead or misinform readers by commission or omission. In articles of controversy or disagreement, a fair voice must be given to the opposition view. 

 

Exceptions may apply for long-running issues where every side of an issue or argument cannot reasonably be repeated on every occasion and in reportage of proceedings where balance is to be judged on a number of stories, rather than a single report.

 

[13] The Media Council does not consider that this principle has been breached. The statement complained about is a quote from someone who believes they have a personal connection to the to the dawn raids. It is clearly presented as a family memory. It is in quotation marks and is clearly not a statement of fact. It is an accurate record of that person’s belief. We agree that it was not necessary, in the context of this article, to probe that statement further. This is further supported by the nature of the story, which simply recounted one group’s response to the Government’s apology, the widespread coverage of the apology and the long running nature of the story. 

 

[14] We agree with both parties that there is question about whether any ‘dawn raids’ occurred in Christchurch. We do not consider that the statements from former police officers on their own are sufficient to determine the issue. We accept The Press’s statement that researching this will take some time. However, we also accept that the complainant could have reasonably expected a response from The Press more rapidly than The Press provided. In its initial response to Dr Boyle’s complaint The Press simply said “Thank you for your email and for raising this issue. We will investigate further and get back to you”.

 

[15] Although The Press may have anticipated that this investigation would take some time, it would have been preferable if it had communicated that expectation to Dr Boyle. Without that, it is understandable that, after 12 days, Dr Boyle wondered why he had heard nothing further. The editor has provided an explanation of why Dr Boyle’s second email was not responded to. However, even in the absence of that second email some further communication (or a more detailed response in the first instance) from The Press outlining the steps that were being taken may have alleviated any miscommunication and confirmed to Dr Boyle that the issues he had raised were being taken seriously.

 

[16] We comment that this was a thoughtful well-presented complaint, and fact checking like this by members of the public is to be encouraged.  This is certainly an issue that is deserving of the further research and reporting that Stuff is undertaking.

 

The complaint is not upheld.

 

Media Council members considering the complaint were Hon Raynor Asher (chair), Rosemary Barraclough, Katrina Bennett, Liz Brown, Craig Cooper, Jo Cribb, Sandy Gill, Ben France-Hudson, Hank Schouten, Marie Shroff and Tim Watkin.

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