MARC WALSH AGAINST NEWSHUB
Case Number: 3118
Council Meeting: SEPTEMBER 2021
Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed
CASE NO: 3118
RULING BY THE NEW ZEALAND MEDIA COUNCIL ON THE COMPLAINT OF MARC WALSH AGAINST NEWSHUB
FINDING: INSUFFICIENT GROUNDS TO PROCEED
DATE: SEPTEMBER 2021
Marc Walsh complained about an opinion piece by law professor Alexander Gillespie published on 1 September 2021 on the Newshub website. It was headed Coronavirus: ‘Compulsion might become necessary’ to get vaccine coverage high enough – law expert.
The article said, in part, that the Government had released a plan for a phased border opening, but this would only be possible once a high rate of vaccination was reached. This would be a challenge and the Government was likely to need to use incentives and some degree of compulsion. If people chose not to be vaccinated, the Government should explain the risks and then allow reasonable levels of discrimination against people who refused the vaccine - for example stop them from entering restaurants, but not from buying food at the supermarket.
Mr Walsh objected to the sentence saying the Government “should then pass laws to allow reasonable levels of discrimination against people who refuse the vaccine”. Any form of discrimination should not be encouraged on any forum, especially from mainstream media, Mr Walsh said. It suggested taking away basic human rights. “I believe this is inciting hate speech,” he said.
Newshub replied, saying the story was clearly marked as an opinion piece. The article did not place any undue emphasis on unvaccinated people or incite hate speech. The writer’s point of view was that if discrimination did occur it was reasonable because of the risks unvaccinated people posed to the wider population.
The story in question is clearly an opinion piece and the fact that Mr Walsh does not agree with it is not grounds for complaint. The word discrimination can simply mean making a distinction between one group and another and this is how Professor Gillespie was using it, rather than in the sense of “unjust discrimination” such as racism. The author was advocating discrimination in limiting the activities unvaccinated people can partake in on public safety grounds. While Mr Walsh might not agree with this approach, there is nothing wrong with Professor Gillespie suggesting it and others debating it.
Finding: Insufficient Grounds to Proceed.