NANNE de HAAN AGAINST STUFF

Case Number: 3239

Council Meeting: March 2022

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Stuff

Ruling Categories: Balance, Lack Of
Defamation/Damaging To Reputation

Overview

This complaint is that Stuff has left a “large information vacuum” for over a year with regards to safety information on the Covid vaccine.

The complainant also said Stuff subsequently targeted people who tried to fill the vacuum as best as they could based on readily available solid scientific data.

“I get the impression that instead of serving New Zealanders by scrutinising the Government and large corporations, Stuff serves the Government and large corporations by scrutinising individuals.”

The complaint referred to the story published in Stuff on March 15, 2022, headlined Covid-19 NZ: The strange story of a man who has found fame in the anti-vaccination ecosystem.

The story was about Guy Hatchard, a man without medical or other relevant scientific qualifications, whose blog posts on vaccinations have been taken up and disseminated by anti-vaccination and anti-mandate groups.

Hanne de Haan wrote to Stuff complaining the article lacked balance, was an ad hominem attack on Guy Hatchard, was defamatory, contained unsubstantiated claims and that if anyone was making demonstrably flawed claims about the vaccine it was Stuff’s parroting of the Government’s stance that the vaccine was safe and effective.

Stuff stood by its story.

The Media Council found insufficient grounds to proceed on another complaint about the same story (Stu Dickson against Stuff. Case No 3238 ). In short it found the article to be a detailed piece of investigative journalism and that no evidence had been advanced to show it was wrong.

As for this complaint, the Council notes that Stuff, along with all other major media outlets, has been covering Covid-19 in detail for over two years. The high degree of public interest has helped ensure the media has explored all angles that have emerged during the pandemic.

The claim that Stuff has left a large information vacuum on the safety of the Covid vaccine is Hanne de Haan’s opinion and no evidence has been produced to support it.

As we stated in relation to the other complaint about this article, the point of the article was not to list errors by Mr Hatchard.  It was not to critique anti-vaccination arguments.  It was to analyse the reach of a person, (Mr Hatchard), who has established an on-line presence in New Zealand as a commentator on matters of expertise that may be disseminated by readers, when he has no expertise.  There is no suggestion that such persons be muzzled.  But the article provides information that would better enable a reader to evaluate Mr Hatchard’s statements.

The complaint is really an expression of belief in and support of Mr Hatchard.  There are no factual matters referred to, and nothing on which to base a successful complaint.

There were insufficient grounds to proceed.

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