Human Rights Commission goes to war with the media

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.

Oh dear lord, perhaps Dame Susan needs a box of tissues to dry her eyes.

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While I’m sure we can all agree that the media are not fair and indeed highly biased with their reporting, it would have been nice if the HRC had referred to a BSA rulings or more objective evidence. After all, when those lines are crossed there can be little debate that an egregious error has been made.

Wallace Chapman, for example, was found guilty of imbalanced reporting when he interviewed Kolin Thumbadoo about Israel in 2015.

Imbalanced reporting is irresponsible journalism. Since 1991, there have been only 14 breaches of the balance standard by a radio network. In August, the BSA upheld a complaint against RadioNZ for its biased reporting of the Gaza conflict last year, ruling that it does not “consider that this broadcast enabled listeners to arrive at an informed and reasoned opinion about the July/August 2014 developments in the Gaza conflict.”

The BSA said that some of the comments during Wallace Chapman’s interview with Kolin Thumbadoo “were so extreme and focused on a particular aspect of the issue that they could not be balanced by other broadcasts dealing with the Gaza conflict generally”. The BSA also said that Mr Chapman “could have prepared for at least some of the comments made by [Thumbadoo], given that even a simple internet search identifies him as an activist who regularly participates in pro-Palestinian protests.”

HonestReporting gives more details.

And Radio NZ is under the hammer again for biased reporting against Israel:

A pair of Radio New Zealand Morning Show segments included incorrect information about Israel and a proposal, now withdrawn, to expand the use of the death penalty against terrorists.

During the first segment, they interviewed journalist Kate Shuttleworth (whose anti-Israel bias HonestReporting have exposed before, most recently in this article) who claimed that Prime Minister Netanyahu:

Supported an Israeli soldier who was filmed shooting a Palestinian attacker in the head while he was already disarmed and lying on the ground.”Kate Shuttleworth

Netanyahu actually said that the soldier’s actions:

…do not represent the values of the Israeli Defense Forces. The IDF expects its soldiers to act calmly and according to the rules of engagement.”Prime Minister Netanyahu

In the second segment, RNZ  interviewed Mouin Rabbani with the Institute for Palestine Studies. His main point was that under current law, an Israeli military court must vote unanimously to impose the death penalty and under the proposal, that requirement would be changed to a simple majority. This change, according to Mabbani, would lead to a wide expansion in the use of the death penalty as prosecutors would be expected to “demand” and “implement” capital punishment because of the change.

What he did not mention is that despite the fact that the law exists on the books, for over 20 years, it has not been sought by prosecutors — even in response to the most heinous terrorist acts. There is not a single example that Mabbani can point to where the number of judges required to enact a death penalty verdict would have made a difference. Also left out of the report is the fact that when the Knesset considered an expansion of the death penalty last year, the proposal was voted down 94-6.

Most disturbing is when Rabbani tells the interviewer:

As you are probably aware, summary executions without even the pretense of a court process are more or less routine in the occupied territories.”Mouin Rabbani

Yet he is never asked to produce any data to back up his claim of routine executions. It is worth noting that with regards to the shooting in Hevron, it is the IDF soldier who is standing trial, accused of manslaughter.

So, while Susan Devoy gets upset about insults to Maori and to Muslims she remains utterly silent on the treatment the media mete out to Israel and Jews in their reporting.

Is it too much to ask for some consistency from her office?


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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