PALESTINE HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN AGAINST NEW ZEALAND HERALDThe Palestine Human Rights Campaign, through its spokesperson Janfrie Wakim, complained to the New Zealand Press Council that an article published in the comment page of the New Zealand Herald on June 25, 2012, breached principles of accuracy, fairness and balance and comment and fact.
They further complained that an article offered for publication to remedy the alleged breaches had not been published.
The complaint is not upheld.
On June 4, 2012, the Herald republished an article from the Independent about how some of the world’s biggest singing stars were facing pressure not to perform in Israel because campaigners angry about human rights abuses on Palestinians wanted a boycott of Israeli venues.
The article was a straightforward account of the issues and named performers who had come under pressure not to perform in Israel as well as those who had chosen to perform despite the protest and those who would not perform in that country.
On June 25, the Herald published another article by Andrea Nadel and Tzvi Fleischer, representing the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, which referred to the first article, saying that anti-Israel activists had been resorting to intimidation, emotional blackmail and misinformation to encourage a boycott.
This article, headed Israeli Music Builds Bridges, was more opinionated and traversed similar ground but from a viewpoint opposing what the activists were doing. It also highlighted how “growing numbers of people” throughout the Middle East were embracing the music of Israeli artists.
On behalf of the Campaign, Mrs Wakim complained to the Herald that the second article by the two Australian authors offered a perspective that defended Israeli policies but failed to describe the genesis of the boycott and the call by “Palestinian civil society for an international campaign.”
She sent to the newspaper an article critical of what the Australian authors had written and offering the different perspective of the Campaign based in New Zealand. That article, she said, provided some historical and factual material about what she called the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.
The Newspaper’s response
The acting editor of the OpEd page declined to run the article, saying he thought readers were well aware of the reasons Israel faced a cultural boycott. The paper did not want to publish tit-for-tat items every time it published an article from either side of an issue.
The matter was referred to the editor of the newspaper but this did not result in a change of stance and Mrs Wakim complained to the Press Council.
Newspapers have some obligation to be fair when opening their columns to various viewpoints but this does not mean they are obliged to print a counter article every time a reader might take exception to a viewpoint.
The Council’s principles on accuracy, fairness and balance states: “In articles of controversy or disagreement, a fair voice must be given to the opposition view. Exceptions may apply for long-running issues where every side cannot reasonably be repeated on every occasion and in reportage of proceedings where balance is to be judged on a number of stories, rather than a single report.”
The second article was clearly a matter of opinion and readers would not have been confused. It should be noted that this second article was published as a response to the first. Those of an opposing viewpoint would probably have found it objectionable but that applies to many articles published daily.
The newspaper was also within its rights to decline another viewpoint and there was certainly no compelling reason to publish in this case. Balance was achieved by publication of the second article. It is also a matter of continuing public interest and no doubt more will be heard on the subject in the future.
The complaint is not upheld.
Press Council members considering this complaint were Barry Paterson, Tim Beaglehole, Pip Bruce Ferguson, Kate Coughlan, Chris Darlow, Sandy Gill, Penny Harding, Keith Lees, Clive Lind, and Stephen Stewart.
John Roughan took no part in the consideration of this complaint.