REX LANDY AGAINST STUFF
Case Number: 3397
Council Meeting: 8 May 2023
Decision: Not Upheld
Principle: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
- Rex Landy complains about an article Another conspiracy group': British anti-trans rights activist plans stop in Aotearoa as part of global tour published by Stuff on 13 March 2023. It falls to be decided under Media Council Principle (1) Accuracy Fairness and Balance. The complaint is not upheld.
- The article reported on concerns expressed by representatives of the Rainbow community in an open letter about a visit to New Zealand by Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull (also known as Posie Parker). The letter called for the denial of a visa to Ms Keen-Minshull on the basis that she posed a threat to public order and the public interest because of her “track record of hateful speech and the incitement of violence”. In particular, the group had concerns for the safety of Aotearoa’s takatāpui, transgender and gender diverse communities because of Ms Keen-Minshull’s visit.
- The article included some reference to Ms Keen-Minshull’s views and current events in this context (in both New Zealand and internationally) and comments from Gender Minorities Aotearoa organiser, Ahi Wi-Hongi regarding violence towards gender diverse communities. They observed that they were aware of Ms Keen-Minshull’s tour and describe anti-trans campaigners at “just another conspiracy group”.
- The article concluded with comments from others who supported the open letter and from a spokesperson for the Minister for Immigration noting any decision on visas was a matter for Immigration New Zealand.
- Rex Landy’s complainant is wide ranging and includes matters that go beyond the content of the article itself. A considerable amount of the complaint is focused on disagreeing with statements made in the open letter itself and differences of opinion in relation to the broader issues at play. As the role of the Media Council is to resolve complaints about the content of newspapers (including their websites) here we focus on those aspects of the complaint that are relevant to the article complained about.
- The complainant considers that many Media Council Principles have been breached by this ‘opinion’ piece. In particular, it was inaccurate to claim that Posie Parker [i.e. Ms Keen-Minshull] is ‘anti-trans’. Indeed, every story headed with the words ‘anti-trans’ should be challenged. Rather Ms Keen-Minshull is not anti-trans anything. Ms Keen-Minshull “is pro woman and pro child safeguarding.” Ms Keen-Minshull has not said anything that is ‘transphobic’ nor does she have a track record of hate speech or incitement to violence.
- The complainant also considers that the article was unbalanced as Ms Keen-Minshull was not given a right of reply. The complaint also suggests that the article was unbalanced as it does not explore the differences of opinion about gender identification and that the article was excessively sympathetic to the viewpoint that transgender women are women.
- Stuff rejects the complaint that it was inaccurate to refer to Ms Keen-Minshull as an anti-trans activist on the basis that Ms Keen-Minshull has described herself as a transphobe on several occasions. This is supported by comments made by Ms Keen-Minshull herself in a recent interview as well as the fact that she is widely described across international media as an anti-trans rights activist, including by other reputable international news outlets. In turn, this is supported by Ms Keen-Minshull’s views which include the view that trans women should not be allowed to legally recognise their gender. Stuff considers it is very clear that Ms Keen-Minshull believes trans-people do not have the same rights as cis gender people.
- With regard to the statement in the article that Ms Keen-Minshull has “A track record of hateful speech and the incitement of violence” Stuff notes that this was a quote. It is the honestly held opinion of the groups opposed to her visit and it was not inappropriate to report it. In any event, there are other instances on the record that suggest the statement is accurate.
- In relation to the complaint that Ms Keen-Minshull was not given a right of reply Stuff notes that although the reporter was unable to reach her or the groups supporting her visit to New Zealand, this did occur in subsequent stories (where she or the groups supporting her visit provided comments). Stuff suggests that the exception to balance based on long-running issues applies in these circumstances.
- Media Council Principle (1) Accuracy Fairness and Balance states that:
- Publications should be bound at all times by accuracy, fairness and balance, and should not deliberately mislead or misinform readers by commission or omission. 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 of an issue or argument 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 Media Council does not consider that it was inaccurate, or unfair, for the article to refer to Ms Keen-Minshull as an ‘anti-trans’ activist. In line with some of the complainant’s comments, we note that in the recent Australian interview supplied to the Council by Stuff, Ms Keen-Minshull’s acceptance of the description of her as a transphobe was somewhat qualified and she preferred to describe herself as a ‘women’s rights activist’.
- Regardless of the way that Ms Keen-Minshull chooses to describe herself and while we consider that some care should be exercised when using the label ‘anti-trans’, we consider that its use in this case was not in breach of our Principles. We consider that there is a sufficiently wide body of information to suggest that it was not inaccurate to describe Ms Keen-Minshull as holding views that are ‘anti-trans.’ Stuff is not the first media outlet to refer to her as such. We consider that the media do have the right to choose how they label someone, providing this is in accordance with Media Council Principles.
- We also agree with Stuff that the statement that Ms Keen-Minshull has “a track record of hateful speech and the incitement of violence” was drawn from the open letter the article focused on. It is clearly presented as a quote and recorded a statement of opinion. It was not a breach of our Principles to include it.
- On the question of balance we note that Stuff states the reporter was ‘unable to reach’ Ms Keen-Minshull or the groups supporting her visit in advance of publication. We read this as indicating that an attempt to reach those groups was made but no reply was received. We think that best practice would be to include a comment to that effect in the body of the article itself. This would clearly indicate that an opportunity to comment was provided but was not taken up. However, we also consider that sufficient balance was achieved over time given the other articles published over March 2023, which focused on Ms Keen-Minshull’s visit to New Zealand, and which did include statements (or references to statements, for example, made via Twitter) made by her.
- More generally, the article was narrowly focused on the objections to Ms Keen-Minshull’s visit and, in the context of this long-running issue, we do not think it was necessary for the article to explore the differences of opinion in relation to gender identification in any greater detail.
- The complaint is not upheld.
Council members considering the complaint were Raynor Asher, Hank Schouten, Tim Watkin, Scott Inglis, Katrina Bennett, Ben France-Hudson, Jo Cribb, Judi Jones, Marie Shroff, Alison Thom.