On November 7 last year David Fisher ran a shabby hit piece against Customs and also Maurice Williamson about OIA processes inside the department.
Despite complaints to the NZ Herald they refused to withdraw the article even though factual errors had been pointed out to them. Shayne Currie the editor fought the complaints vociferously.
Customs persisted and complained to the Press Council.
The Press Council has found that David Fisher essentially made stuff up, in effect he lied in his article.
Wide concerns among the media and the public have led the Ombudsman to launch an investigation into Official Information Act practices in the public sector.
The Herald may have been entitled to form the view that departmental rules and guidelines, including requirements for consultation, do open the way to political influence and interference in information releases.
But the documents provided to the Herald, and referred to in the article, do not grant the minister the freedom to change whatever is released.
Therefore the part-sentence included in the article is factually incorrect and the Council upholds the complaint on that basis.
Press Council members considering the complaint were Sir John Hansen, Chris Darlow, Tim Beaglehole, Liz Brown, Jenny Farrell, Sandy Gill, Marie Shroff, Vernon Small, Mark Stevens and Stephen Stewart.
John Roughan took no part in the consideration of this complaint.