Case Number: 2011

Council Meeting: NOVEMBER 2007

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: New Zealand Herald

Ruling Categories: Letters to the Editor, Closure, Non-Publication

The Press Council has not upheld a complaint from Ulli Weissbach against the New Zealand Herald. Mr Weissbach objected that the abridged form in which a letter he wrote to the editor was published, on 14 August 2007, misrepresented his opinion and distorted what he had intended to say.

The letter was written in response to another letter that had been published three days earlier, in which the writer – who had recently returned from a holiday in Europe - expressed disillusionment with New Zealand society, citing headline stories of inappropriate and in some cases criminal behaviour from people in positions of authority and a child abuse case as specific examples of decay.

In his letter, Mr Weissbach expressly agreed with that opinion, related it to his own personal history as a European immigrant, referred to further headline examples, and criticised the prime minister and other societal leaders for failing to act.

The Press Council will rarely interfere with the selection and treatment of letters written to the editor for publication (Principle 12). Mr Weissbach’s letter, which exceeded the 200 word limit, was edited before publication. However, the changes were minor: tightening the syntax and deleting some details, a “wake up” call, and some legally risky statements. The meaning and tenor of the letter was not affected.

The Press Council does not accept that the abridgment misrepresented Mr Weissbach’s opinion or distorted what he intended to say.

The complaint is not upheld.

Council members considering the complaint were Barry Paterson, Aroha Beck, Ruth Buddicom, Kate Coughlan, Penny Harding, Keith Lees, Denis McLean, Alan Samson and Lynn Scott.

John Gardner took no part in the consideration of this complaint.