Wednesday, February 15, 2012

NZ Herald's Response to complaint re: Paul Holmes

I received a response to my complaint from the editor of the Weekend Herald, David Hastings. The response was very much in line of those other complainants have received. I won't post it here, but Hastings ran the line that Holmes was clearly targeting the small band of protesters at Te Tii Marae, not Māori as a whole. He pinpointed the examples of Holmes talking about "Maori fringe self-denial day" and "that's what it looked like the other day" as examples. 

Those who read my complaint will notice these aren't the parts of Holmes's piece I picked out. I responded to Hastings with the following:

Dear Mr Hastings

Thank you taking the time to respond to my complaint.

I, however, have to admit that I am disappointed by your reaction. It is certainly possible for someone to start on one issue and slide to another one during the course of a piece – in fact, this is the shape large amounts of prejudiced invective takes. Furthermore, even if the parts of the article you cite did refer to the protesters rather than to Māori as a whole, those are not the parts I drew your attention to. I concentrated on the clearest example of invective aimed against Māori as a whole, the section starting with “No, if Maori want Waitangi Day for themselves, let them have it.” You have said nothing about this section. Nor have you said anything about the different standards Holmes uses for judging Māori and Pākehā. Thus, you have made no response to the substance of my complaint.

I took the trouble to look through previous Press Council rulings on discrimination, and have found examples where they have upheld complaints where a piece started off indicating one section of a population, but then went on to make defamatory statements of the population at large. One I have at hand is 1092 GRANT HANNIS AGAINST NORTH & SOUTH – it is not a perfect analogue (the piece in question is not an opinion piece, and issues of accuracy are also involved), but it shows that the Press Council is willing to uphold complaints against pieces which starts off with qualifications about who is being targeted, but then go on to make wide-ranging discriminatory statements.

With that in mind, I must press on my complaint. Do you and your paper have some further response to make? I await your reply with interest.

Yours sincerely,
Marinus Ferreira

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