J.LIVESEY AGAINST THE DOMINION

Case Number: 613

Council Meeting: MAY 1996

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: The Dominion

The Press Council has rejected a complaint against The Dominion for using the term "Chowick" but noted newspapers should be careful using language which could be racially offensive.

The Council found, however, that in the case of a Dominion editorial, the term "Chowick" had been used not to offend, but to support the editorial's argument that New Zealand First should not use the race card to play up fears about rising immigration.

Paekakariki reader John Livesey, had complained to the Council that the use of "Chowick" in the editorial on 15 March, had "the veneer or arrogance and that it is unwise and arrogant." He said "chow" as defined in the Dictionary of New Zealand, was a derogatory term for a person of Asian descent. It carried the same baggage as "hori", "nigger", "Kaffir" and "wog".

In response the editor of the newspaper Richard Long, agreed the term "Chowick" was offensive, but said he was astonished Mr Livesey would accuse The Dominion of racism when the entire thrust of the editorial was to deplore racist attacks taking place on immigrants. The Dominion made it clear new Kiwis should be welcomed, not attacked, and it was in this context "Chowick" was used in quotation marks to denote it was not the paper's word, but the term used by critics of the growing Asian population in Howick. Mr Long said Mr Livesey had got the wrong end of the stick.

In reply Mr Livesey said he did not agree the use of the term was acceptable and that complaints had been laid with the Race Relations Office about the use of the term.

The Council shared Mr Livesey's concern, but found in this case, the context of an editorial condemning racist attacks on Asian immigrants the term had been used to characterise a disturbing mood among some members of the public. The complaint was therefore rejected.

A similar complaint by Mr Livesey against the Kapiti Mail was also rejected, but the Council warned that terms with racist overtones should be used only with great care by newspapers.