WENDY BARRON AGAINST THE ENSIGNThe New Zealand Press Council by a majority, has not upheld a complaint by Ms Wendy Barron against The Ensign, of Gore.
An editorial of 9 December 1997 was written in an ironic vein suggesting that Gore might follow a Malaysian cultural ceremony of mass circumcision of boys, which there could become a tourist attraction as advocated by the Minister of Tourism in Malaysia..
The editorial said:
“We already have a sort of touristy thing being done by the Gore District Council’s Wendy Barron and promotion of this sort of attraction would really give her something to get her teeth into.”
Ms Barron made a complaint alleging that the editorial, containing the reference reproduced above, “overstepped the mark by personalising it [the editorial] with the inclusion of references to me and what I could do.” She also complained that it was “distasteful and insulting...”
Ms Barron sent a letter to the editor strongly criticising the newspaper for the editorial, and her letter was reproduced without amendment in the newspaper. The editor offered no other relevant response to the Council.
In its consideration of the complaint all members of the Council were critical of the part of the editorial reproduced above. They were unanimous in believing the reference to the complainant was gratuiious and included a highly questionable innuendo. However, the majority of the Council upheld an editor’s right to express himself or herself in an editorial using robust language, given that readers are always free to exact their own penalty.
The Chairman, and two other members of the Council , differed from the result and would have upheld the complaint.