Case Number: 3261

Council Meeting: May 2022

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Principle: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance

Ruling Categories: Accuracy
Balance, Lack Of
Unfair Coverage


Stuff published an article on April 27, 2022, headlined Frustration as new ‘Safe Area’ abortion law ineffective without application process in place.

The story reported that the Ministry of Health had not yet established any safe areas around abortion facilities where people would be prohibited from obstructing, filming in an intimidating manner, dissuading, informing or protesting.

It reported frustration that there was no process in place for providers to apply for safe areas and no timeline for when applications would be possible. It also reported a nurse at one clinic saying that women were harassed as they walked into the hospital where she worked.

Ken Orr, Secretary of Right to Life, complained that the article breached Media Council’s Principle 1 (accuracy, fairness and balance) and it was irresponsible journalism to continue to slander the reputations of prayerful peaceful citizens.

 “Ethical investigative journalism demands that the abortion facilities where the alleged harassment and intimation of women and staff is taking place be revealed.”

Mr Orr said he was “familiar with the lawful, peaceful, caring people who regularly assemble to pray outside a number of abortion facilities in New Zealand. They are totally opposed to the intimidation and harassment of women or staff.”

He added that Right to Life last year asked every District Health Board if they had a record of receiving any complaints of harassment or intimidation. The response was that there had been no complaints.

Stuff News Director Lisa Nicolson said the story did not misinform readers. The article was focused on new legislation and included the views of abortion providers and the Ministry of Health, which is responsible for the new law’s application process. Abortion was also a long-running issue where many views had been reported over time and it could not be expected to report every side in every story.

The Media Council notes the story was not about the merits of the abortion debate. It is about “Safe Areas” for abortion clinics so patients can seek assistance without being harassed by protesters.

It mentioned the ongoing protest activity outside clinics and the reported impact this has on woman. There was no evidence that what was reported in this story was inaccurate, unfair or unbalanced. Nor is there anything to support claims of slander or breaches of journalistic ethics.

There were insufficient grounds to proceed.


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