SHIRLEY van ESSEN AGAINST STUFF
Case Number: 2766
Council Meeting: APRIL 2019
Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed
Balance, Lack Of
Censorship, Supression of Fact
Letters to the Editor, Closure, Non-Publication
CASE NO: 2766 and 2767
RULING BY THE NEW ZEALAND MEDIA COUNCIL ON THE COMPLAINTS OF SHIRLEY VAN ESSEN AND DAVID SHELLEY AGAINST STUFF
FINDING: NO GROUNDS TO PROCEED
DATE: APRIL 2019
The Media Council has been asked to consider similar complaints from Shirley van Essen and David Shelley.Both complaints concern Stuff’s editorial policy on publication of reader comments and opinions on climate change.
Shirley van Essen complained that a letter offered for publication had not been published. She had noted that “we live in a democracy and if any censorship is to be imposed it must come from parliament, and not from editors.” She noted that she wished to read opinions from both sides on climate change, 1080 and cannabis use for example without finding that “an editor has decided that opinions at odds with his or hers must be suppressed”
David Shelley had submitted a letter to the editor, in response to a Press editorial, which he said “effectively declares censorship on debating climate change in the belief that the science is settled, and further debate cannot be justified.” He letter was not published. He had previously offered The Press an article, drawing on his experience and knowledge as an academic in geology, to dispute findings of the IPCC and to show that global warming had occurred at other periods in history (for example 60 million years ago) and the view that current warming / sea level rise was linked to human activity was therefore false. This article was not published.
Both Mrs van Essen and Mr Shelley had been advised of the Media Council’s previous decisions on these topics – Mrs van Essen by the executive director of the Media Council and Mr Shelley by the editor ofThe Press. Both insisted that the Media Council consider their particular complaints.
This we have now done. We find nothing in either complaint that would cause us to resile from our previously expressed opinions.
Editors, over many years, have been supported by the Council in exercising their prerogative to determine which letters and opinion pieces to publish, and when to draw correspondence on a topic to a close. The same applies to user generated comments, which we see as analogous to letters to the editor http://www.mediacouncil.org.nz/rulings/greg-rzesniowiecki-against-stuff
Likewise we have recently supported Stuff’s decision as expressed in an editorial
Stuff accepts the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real and caused by human activity. We welcome robust debate about the appropriate response to climate change, but do not intend to provide a venue for denialism or hoax advocacy. That applies equally to the stories we will publish in Quick! Save the Planet and to our moderation standards for reader comments.
We see no grounds for these complaints to proceed.
The Media Council decision on this issue is final and we will not enter into further correspondence on this matter.