Case Number: 676

Council Meeting: DECEMBER 1997

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Timaru Herald

The New Zealand Press Council has declined to uphold a complaint from the leader of the United Party, Peter Dunne MP against the Timaru Herald. It concerned an editorial published on 22 September.

The editorial bore the headline “A Flexible Politician” and continued the ironic tone in the editorial itself. Two particular points in the editorial offended Mr Dunne and they were references to approaches of the United Party to other parties to merge, and a statement rhetorically phrased, as to what might be “the much-merged party’s view...on education, health, or anything for that matter. The latter point was the main ground of Mr Dunne’s complaint because he responded to the challenge, he said was implied in the remarks and sent the editor a 13,000 word document on the United Party’s policies. for him to print.

The editor published a critical letter of Mr Dunne’s and added a footnote declining to print the 13,000 word document and said Mr Dunne, in essence, had failed to grasp the main point of the editorial.

The Council noted the paper had published two letters from Mr Dunne as a result of the editorial which combined were longer than the editorial. In the Council’s view Mr Dunne was given ample opportunity to air his views. The editorial was the paper’s opinion and could not be attacked on the grounds it contained factual errors or implied challenges it failed to meet.