ROSS FRANCIS 2 AGAINST NEW ZEALAND HERALD
Case Number: 3126
Council Meeting: OCTOBER 2021
Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed
Ruling Categories: Misleading
RULING BY THE NEW ZEALAND MEDIA COUNCIL ON THE COMPLAINT OF ROSS FRANCIS AGAINST THE NEW ZEALAND HERALD
FINDING: INSUFFICIENT GROUNDS TO PROCEED
DATE: OCTOBER 2021
The New Zealand Herald ran a story on September 18, 2021 headlined The call to arms. Should I get vaccinated? where do I start? your questions answered. Another story ran on September 21, 2021 headlined Covid-19 Delta outbreak: The 90% Project – Behaviour change experts: 21 tips to help NZ get vaccinated.
Mr Ross complained the first article was little more than a marketing campaign for the vaccine and its manufacture. It was devoid of important and relevant information about the risks of vaccination and possibly breached the Health and Disability Commissioner Act.*
He said the second article contained false and misleading information by saying those who resisted getting vaccines were holding the country back.
This was a lengthy complaint, similar to one which was recently dismissed by the Media Council, in which Mr Francis complained that a Herald article downplayed a possible mild side effect of vaccination identified in early trials of the Pfizer vaccine. He also alleged that the expert who was quoted in the article had a conflict of interest.
The Media Council notes both of the articles cited in his latest complaint were written to explain why vaccinations were recommended. They set out the arguments for vaccination and mentioned the small risk of side effects and the low number of people who suffered from them compared to the much higher risks faced by people who were unvaccinated. There was no requirement to list all the possible side effects mentioned by Mr Francis.
It is clear that the Herald strongly supports the vaccination programme and these stories were written to encourage its readers to get vaccinated. This is consistent with the Media Council’s principles which specifically state that publications have a right to adopt a forthright stance or advocate on any issue.
That aside, these stories included opinion on matters of health science, an area where knowledge has evolved rapidly and where there is always going to be some debate and uncertainty. It has not been demonstrated that the information published here was false or misleading. Nor is there any evidence that the Herald’s support for vaccinations was a marketing campaign for the vaccine and its manufacturers.
This complainant has not established a case that the Herald breached Media Council Principles 1 (Accuracy, fairness and balance); 4 (Comment and fact) or 10 (Conflicts of interest).
There were insufficient grounds to proceed.
*The Media Council has no authority to consider breaches of the Health and Disability Commissioner Act.