RIGHT TO LIFE NZ Inc AGAINST NEWSROOM
Case Number: 2844
Council Meeting: NOVEMBER 2019
Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed
Balance, Lack Of
CASE NO: 2844
RULING BY THE NEW ZEALAND MEDIA COUNCIL ON THE COMPLAINT OF RIGHT TO LIFE NEW ZEALAND Inc AGAINST NEWSROOM
FINDING: NO GROUNDS TO PROCEED
DATE: NOVEMBER 2019
Ken Orr, secretary of Right to Life New Zealand Inc, complained about an opinion articleA hostility to women’s agency written by Professor Liz Beddoe which was published byNewsroom on August 30, 2019. He said the article breached Principle 1 (Accuracy, fairness and balance). In his view it did not maintain a foundation of fact and was highly defamatory.
The article was based on a US survey comparing the answers of pro-choice and anti-abortion respondents to issues relating to women’s rights and gender equality. In brief she wrote that anti-abortion respondents were far more hostile to women’s rights than pro-choice respondents were and developed that argument further to criticise anti-abortion groups and their beliefs.
Mr Orr said it was false and defamatory to say those who oppose abortion also reject bodily autonomy and other human rights and it was offensive to claim without evidence that the pro-life movement was sexist. It was offensive to call the pro-life movement “anti-abortionists”, it was untrue to claim they were not concerned about the un-implanted in-vitro human embryo, it was untrue to say the pro-life movement gave preference to the rights of the child and it was defamatory to claim the movement supported women being coerced into pregnancy as a means of control in intimate partner violence.
Note – on this latter point the article reported only that Right to Life was strangely silent on coercion into pregnancy, and continuing with the pregnancy, as a means of control in intimate partner violence, a practice research conducted by New Zealand Women’s Refuge found to be widespread.
Much of this complaint is directed at material Mr Orr finds offensive or defamatory. There is no right not to be offended. As for defamation that is a matter for the courts rather than the Media Council.
The Media Council has always held that there is no more important principle in a democracy than freedom of expression. There is a place for robust debate and the arguments advanced are not a matter which the Council needs to rule on.
As for the balance of his complaint we note that he recognises this was an opinion article. Although it was not tagged as such the by-line, style of writing and its publication under a section marked as “Ideasroom” clearly indicates this was an opinion piece and as such there was wide scope for the writer to express her opinions.
Mr Orr also “noted with concern that Newsroom has published four articles this year in support of killing children before they are born.”He also said there had been no response to his complaint from the editor ofNewsroom. The preamble to the Media Council’s principles stipulates that that it does not interfere with a publication’s right to adopt a forthright stance or to advocate on any issue. However, we think it should at least have acknowledged Mr Orr’s complaint.
No Grounds to Proceed.