Case Number: 3482

Council Meeting: March 2024

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: New Zealand Herald

Principle: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
Comment and Fact
Discrimination and Diversity

Ruling Categories: Bias

The NZ Herald published a story on its website on 7 January 2024 headed ‘Ceasefire now’: Protesters march in Auckland calling for an immediate end to war in Gaza. It reported that several hundred protesters gathered in Aotea Square. They were met by pro-Israel counter-protesters, and police formed a protective line to prevent the groups from clashing. It reported that the group said on its Facebook page: “Gaza has been under a genocide by the Israeli Defence Force, funded by USA... more than 22,000 innocent lives killed. More than 8000 of them are children. More than 57,000 injured. Eighty per cent of the population displaced. No homes, no food, no power, no water, no medication, no humanitarian aid, no life, just hope.” The story said Hamas fighters had killed 1200 people and taken 240 hostages. Israel had vowed to destroy Hamas and its campaign had killed more than 22,000 people. Rallies calling for an end to the war had been held across New Zealand in a number of centres over the weekend.

Peter Robinson complained the story was biased, anti-Semitic, one-sided and emotive. The story did not say how many pro-Israel protesters there were, what messages they were carrying and who spoke for them. It probably did not suit the writer’s “anti-Semitic agenda” to include those matters, Mr Robinson said. The article made much of the suffering of the people of Gaza, which Mr Robinson acknowledged was horrific, but did not mention rapes carried out by Hamas, that hostages were still being held, and the few hostages that were released had been starved and raped.

The NZ Herald replied that under Media Council principles, balance was not required in every story when dealing with a long-running issue. Balance could be judged over a number of stories, and it was unrealistic to expect every article to summarise a dispute that has spanned more than 70 years.

Mr Robinson said in response when he brought his complaint to the Council, that the NZ Herald had missed the point that the article was not focused on the whole dispute but purported to cover the protest with the entire conflict providing background. There was only information from one side of the protest.

In its reply to Mr Robinson, the NZ Herald also said they were committed to reporting all sides of the war. The NZ Herald provided examples of stories they had published that put the Israeli side of the story, including stories on pro-Israeli protests and rapes by Hamas fighters.

At the outset, the Media Council notes that this is an issue that elicits strong views from both sides, and one that media outlets must take great care to deal with even-handedly. It agrees with the NZ Herald that in a long-running issue like this, balance can be achieved over a number of stories. This was a report of a pro-Palestinian protest, so it’s not surprising that pro-Palestinian rather than pro-Israel perspectives led the story and were more prominent. However, the story reported that there was a pro-Israel counter-protest, which provided some balance relating to the actual event. It also reported the facts of the Hamas attack in Israel, including deaths and hostage-taking, and the Council believes this was adequate. Considering the enormous amount of coverage there has been of the war and the views and actions of those on both sides, including in the NZ Herald, it was not necessary to go into more detail in this case, which was about a particular event on that day rather than a broader piece about the conflict in general. No principles were breached.

Decision: There were insufficient grounds to proceed.


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