It seems the response to Dame Susan Devoy’s endorsement of decisions to not mention “Christmas” so as to not offend those precious thin-skinned Muslim immigrants has hit a nerve. She has lambasted media bias.
Most of us already realise our mainstream media has a powerful influence on people. What some of us do not already realise is that our media is neither neutral nor objective.
Chinese New Zealanders, Muslim New Zealanders, Jewish New Zealanders, Pacific New Zealanders, Indian New Zealanders, African New Zealanders and of course Maori New Zealanders: regularly tell the Commission that the media too often misrepresents, sensationalises or fails to include their voices in news stories about them.
Often news stories about ethnic minorities have negative themes and present minorities as problems and not as people. This is not a new phenomenon and with the advent of social media, these prejudices are often amplified.
Dame Susan Devoy, Race Relations Commissioner, who recently spoke at the Ethnic Migrant Refugee Community Engagement Summit about this issue, says that while the media may not be neutral or objective, it does reflect the society we live in.
“There have been a number of examples in recent times of the media’s incorrect treatment and portrayal of ethnic communities in New Zealand.
“The “ban on Christmas’ coverage last year was particularly telling – taking The Commission’s defence of a Migrant Trusts right to use secular language and turning it into a story about how New Zealand’s way of life was at risk from migrants and newcomers.
“The article pushed the buttons of fear and intolerance and served an existing undertone of anti-migrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric: and the immediate response from many New Zealanders was angry, abusive and offensive.”
The article definitely got people talking, but after a month or so the majority of editorials and commentators had realised what we had been saying for weeks: no one was banning Christmas; Kiwis can decide for themselves; New Zealand’s way of life was not in danger.