Case Number: 2692

Council Meeting: JULY 2018

Decision: Not Upheld

Publication: The Press

Ruling Categories: Accuracy
Unfair Coverage


[1] Nima Jarvandi complains that an article on Stuff dated February 3, 2017 breaches NZ Media Council principles 1, 2 and 11.

[2] The Council acknowledges that this complaint is outside of the normal time limits however an exception has been provided to allow the complaint to be brought to this Council meeting.

[3] The article focused on a 3rd year PhD student studying at University of Canterbury who is an Iranian national and who was affected by the travel ban in the US which prevented him from attending his relative’s wedding.

An executive order was put in place by the US Government which blocked entry into the US by citizens from specific countries, Iran was one of the listed countries. The executive order also barred green-card holders from those countries. Included in the article was a photograph of the invitation to the wedding which showed the groom and bride and included their first names as well as the date of the wedding and that the wedding was to be held in San Francisco.

The Complaint

[4] The complainant, Mr Jarvandi was the groom shown in the photograph of the wedding invitation.

[5] In the original email complaint about the article Mr Jarvandi alleged that Media Council principle one: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance had been breached, “this story is not accurate and greatly embellished”.

[6] Mr Jarvandi has explained that the travel ban did not restrict invitees to attend the wedding, “Immediate family members were not impacted by the travel ban at the time this article was written nor on the wedding day. In fact, all of the family members who wanted to attend came from Canada, UK, Sweden and even Iran were able to travel with no issues.” Referring to his relative based in NZ who was the subject of the article, Mr Jarvandi does not agree that he was unable to enter the US, “Reza could have made the flight if he wanted and most importantly provided you zero evidence that he was not permitted to travel…”

[7] Further to the original complaint which was lodged on 19 May 2018, Mr Jarvandi has added a further breach of Media Council principle one: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance with a specific focus on fairness.Mr Jarvandi was never contacted for comment about the impact of the travel ban on his wedding nor the inclusion of his wedding invite in the article.

[8] In his correspondence, Mr Jarvandi has referred to the political aspect of the article and this is demonstrated in the article as each page carries a pictorial of Donald Trump with accompanying commentary on the countries affected by the travel ban and then a picture of the wedding invite which included the complainant and his now wife.In his initial correspondence Mr Jarvandi remarks, “Please remove my image and name associated with this inaccurate politically motivated article.”

[9] Mr Jarvandi has complained that the inclusion of his wedding invitation in the article breaches Media Council principle two: privacy, “This article uses my name and my wife’s name and our images without our permission.I’d like both removed from this article.” Mr Jarvandi has further remarked, “The use of my wedding to make an inaccurate and partisan political point is also an invasion of our privacy.”

[10] Included in this complaint was a reference to principle 11: Photographs and Graphics. Mr Jarvandi maintains that the copyright to the photograph of his wedding invite is held by him and Stuff did not have permission to use it in the article and he requested that the photograph be removed, “The only images that are publicly available on social media are from my vendors, all have my consent.Stuff does not.”

The Response

[11] Kamala Hayman responding on behalf of Stuff addressed Mr Jarvandi’s initial complaint that the article content was “not accurate and greatly embellished.”She invited Mr Jarvandi to advise “which facts are incorrect” so that any errors could be corrected.

[12] In response to the breach of fairness allegation, Ms Hayman agreed with Mr Jarvandi that “neither he nor his now wife were contacted for comment on this story” as the article “was not about the engaged couple and they were not named… though their first names were visible on their wedding invite.”Ms Hayman made the point that the article “concerned the plight of their relative… who found himself unable to travel to the United States.”She also mentioned that the “office of US president Donald Trump was not contacted for comment…”

[13] Ms Hayman declined Mr Jarvandi’s request to remove the photograph of the wedding invitation, “we will not be removing the photo of your wedding invitation taken by our photographer.I see the same image is readily available on your own publicly-accessible website.”In further comments Ms Hayman has referred to “the photograph showing the couple’s faces and their first names is a picture taken by our photographer of a wedding invitation” and that the “invitation was held by a person invited to the wedding and who posed willingly for our photo.”

The Discussion

[14] In his original email Mr Jarvandi had complained that the story was not accurate which falls under principle one. His comments referred to the content of the article and the video where his relative is explaining that due to the travel ban imposed by the US Government he is unable to travel to the US to attend Mr Jarvandi’s wedding.In a reply to the NZ Media Council executive director Mr Jarvandi had stated, “I’d like to proceed with the breach of privacy and fairness…less interested in the inaccuracies than my breach of privacy.”

Principle 1: Accuracy – Not upheld/Set aside.

[15] Mr Jarvandi has alleged that fairness has not been provided in the writing of the article.The provision set out in the Council’s principles is to allow a fair voice to be heard in articles of controversy or disagreement where there is an opposing view.The content of this article is an account of a person’s inability to travel to the US to attend a relative’s wedding due to a travel ban imposed by the US Government.Ms Hayman acknowledges thatThe Press could have done some further research and investigation into the claims that the travel ban did prevent the issue of a visa to an Iranian national to travel to the US but this story was an account of how the travel ban interrupted the intended attendance at the wedding in the US and that there was no reason to doubt this was true.

Principle 1: Fairness – Not upheld.

[16] The principle covering privacy makes clear that everyone is normally entitled to privacy of person and personal information and these rights should be respected by publications.It is also worth acknowledging that the article has been in existence with the inclusion of the photograph since February 2017. The difficulty in deciding this complaint is that the photograph in question was the wedding invitation presented to the photographer by the relative unable to travel to the US to attend the wedding. It is the political aspect of the article that Mr Jarvandi does not want to be associated with.In this situation there has not been a breach of privacy on the basis that the photograph was of the wedding invitation and that this image was made readily available by the relative who was not able to attend the wedding.

Principle 2: Privacy – Not upheld.

[17] This principle cautions editors to take care in photographic and image selection.The wedding invitation which showed the couple to be married along with their first names was key to the story of how an Iranian national relative living in New Zealand was unable to attend a wedding in the US owing to the travel ban imposed by the US Government.In this matter the photograph of the wedding invite was within the context of the article.

Principle 11: Photographs and Graphics – Not upheld.

Media Council members considering the complaint were Sir John Hansen, Liz Brown, Jo Cribb, Chris Darlow, Tiumalu Peter Fa’afiu, Jenny Farrell, Hank Schouten, Christina Tay, Tim Watkin and Tracy Watkins.


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