Case Number: 3476

Council Meeting: February 2024

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Stuff

Principle: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
Comment and Fact
Discrimination and Diversity

Ruling Categories: Te Reo and reporting on Te Ao Maori

Stuff published a story on 5 December 2023 headed Te Pati Māori runs alternative oaths, three MPs appear to insult King during official pledge. It said three Te Pati Māori MPs referred to Kīngi Harehare.

In te reo Māori, harehare can refer to a rash so it could be seen as an insult, the story said.  MPs Tākuta Ferris and Rawiri Waititi said they had not insulted the king, as Hare was “East Coast for Charles”. However, the journalist said that in Te Waipounamu, where he was from, it meant scab.

Vincent Olsen-Reeder complained that the story breached Principle (1) Accuracy, Fairness and Balance because it was a misrepresentation of language, a fabrication and belligerent. The phrase “rash king” was an impossibility in te reo Māori. The two common nouns harehare and kīngi could not sit side by side in this manner. There were many recorded instances of the word Harehare used as a proper noun. Stuff could have checked this with a language expert but failed to. The story said it “could” have been seen as an insult. The journalist had not bothered to find out whether it was an insult, so tempered the claim, Mr Olsen-Reeder said.

Under Principle (7) Discrimination and Diversity, Mr Olsen-Reeder said disconnecting and inventing word relationships was anti- Māori – fabricating such a story indicated that Māori were dangerous. Stuff had acknowledged that details of his complaint were valid but had not upheld the complaint or corrected it.

Stuff said from a strictly linguistic point of view Mr Olsen-Reeder's points were valid. However context was important, and the writer was an experienced political journalist who was familiar with the sometimes provocative tactics of Te Pati Māori. Ms Ngarewa-Packer, when asked if they were being cute with the language, said “Always, we’re always provocative.” Stuff said they couldn’t be sure, but it was plausible that Te Pati Māori was having a dig at the King. “The uncertainty was evident in our reporting.” Te Pati Māori was given full right of reply to the story, and although there had been several conversations with Te Pati Māori that day, no complaints were made by the party.

The Media Council acknowledges the complainant’s concerns, but considers that the story was clearly discussing the possibility rather than certainty that Te Pati Māori was being provocative in its use of language, a position that Ms Ngarewa-Packer did not seem to reject when interviewed. The story is the kind of robust reporting that is expected of political journalists, attempting to make sense of the events of the day. It clearly reflected that there was uncertainty around the meaning of the language used, and Te Pati Māori was given an opportunity to explain its point of view. No principles are breached.

Decision: There were insufficient grounds to proceed.


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