Case Number: 3486

Council Meeting: March 2024

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Stuff

Principle: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
Headlines and Captions
Photographs and Graphics

Ruling Categories: Court Reporting

Stuff published a story on 31 January 2024 headed Hone Harawira’s brother on trial for historical child sex abuse charges.

Michael Grayson complained that the story unfairly and unnecessarily mentioned Hone Harawira when he was completely uninvolved in the offending.  It was also unfair that Stuff ran a photo of Hone Harawira rather than his brother, Taiawa, who was the defendant.

Mr Grayson said the disproportionate focus on Hone Harawira, given that he was no more than  a family member with a public profile, was irrelevant to the alleged criminal offending. He believed the article was unbalanced.

Stuff responded that it stood by its reporting as factual and straight reporting from an open court proceeding. The prominence of the family was part of the evidence. It was appropriate to mention that the defendant was a relative of two well-known New Zealanders. Stuff also said that initially they could not locate a photograph of Taiawa Harawira. But they did obtain a photograph  later and this was included when the story was updated.

Stuff added that the reporting did not say, or infer in any way, that Hone Harawira or Titiwhai Harawira were connected to the alleged offending of Taiawa Harawira.

The Media Council has some sympathy for the Harawira family. Publicity can be tough for relatives of people who appear in Court on serious charges and it can be especially so for well-known people, like Hone Harawira, who has a long history in the public eye as an activist and former Member of Parliament.

Media Council members felt that it could well be seen as unfair and mean to name him in the headline and run his photograph in lieu of his brother’s. However, the story made it quite clear that Hone Harawira was not the defendant and a case has not been made to show how the article and its presentation has breached the Council’s Principles.  The unfairness is inherent in a serious criminal charge where a defendant has a famous and blameless relative.

Decision:  There are no grounds to proceed.


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