J.LIVESEY AGAINST THE KAPITI MAIL

Case Number: 612

Council Meeting: MAY 1996

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: NULL

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

John Livesey of Paekakariki, had complained to the Council that the Kapiti Mail had used the term "Chowick" in a news report of New Zealand First leader Winston Peters' address to a meeting of the Kapiti Coast Grey Power. He said the use of "Chowick" in the February 29 story, had the "veneer of arrogance and that it was unwise and arrogant." the word "Chow" as defined by 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, Kapiti Mail editor Richard Woodd said when the paper's reporter used the term "Chowick" Mr Woodd assumed it was a euphemism for "Chinese Howick" and was happy to have it used as a colloquial expression. The editor denied it was used to insult.

Mr Woodd said he had not heard the term "chow" being used in a derogatory sense until Mr Livesey's complaint. The writer of the article, Mr K.Gurunathan was Malaysian by birth and it was his choice to use the word. The writer said he had already seen it used in the New Zealand media and did not himself find the word offensive.

In reply Mr Livesey said he did not agree the term "Chowick" could be used as a euphemism and it appeared Mr Woodd had not heard the term "chow." The term "chow" was well grounded in New Zealand society and was a word any responsible New Zealander would never use. It was neither mild nor vague, but was a flip word and racist.

Mr Livesey said the use of the term was unacceptable and that complaints had been laid with the Race Relations Office about it.

The Council shared Mr Livesey's concern, but found in this case, the term had not been used by the Kapiti Mail in a derogatory sense, but in the context of a report of a speech by Mr Peters who has made the issue of Asian immigration a central topic of debate this year. The complaint was not upheld.

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