HARRY BERGER AGAINST RNZ

Case Number: 2904

Council Meeting: JUNE 2020

Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Radio NZ

Ruling Categories: Accuracy

Overview

CASE NO: 2904

RULING BY THE NEW ZEALAND MEDIA COUNCIL ON THE COMPLAINT OF HARRY BERGER AGAINST RNZ

FINDING: INSUFFICIENT GROUNDS TO PROCEED

DATE: JUNE 2020

On April 8, 2020 RNZ published an article Covid-19: How New Zealand’s level 4 lockdown might end. The basis for the article was as stated -With businesses, workers and parents of school aged children all keen to get out from under level 4”s thumb, RNZ asked experts when that might happen and what it might look like.

The long article brought together the views of Dr Shaun Hendy and Dr Ayesha Verrall on whether a release from Level 4 was feasible and, towards the end of the article, commented on the experiences of other countries.

Included was the sentence complained about by Harry Berger – New Zealand could also learn from countries like Hong Kong, that have experienced previous outbreaks such as SARS.

Mr Berger complained this was a significant inaccuracy as “Hong Kong is a special administrative region of the Peoples Republic of China, not a country.Furthermore Hong Kong has never been a country.”

Mr Berger complained initially to RNZ who replied “To the person on the street Hong Kong with its own flag, Parliament, legal system, Olympic team and anthem has the appearance of being its own country. You are correct to say it is not a country in its own right though.”RNZ also noted that the sentence was but a small part of a 3000 word story that was focussed on social distancing and the opening and closing of schools. They declined to make any change, which brought the complaint to the Media Council.

The Media Council agrees, Hong Kong is most definitely not a country, so there was a basic and surprising error in this well-written article. However it was a passing error in a long article and whether Hong Kong was a country or a special territory on China was irrelevant to the point being made. An informed reader, and most who had ventured that far into the article would know about the political status of Hong Kong, will note the error and gloss over it. The inaccuracy is not material and does not meet the level of importance required to be considered by the Council. However, we are surprised that RNZ did not consider it worth correcting the online copy, if only to remove the impression that RNZ is ill-informed on the matter.

Finding: Insufficient Grounds To Proceed.

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