Case Number: 721 S wALSH AGAINST CLUTHA LEADER
Council Meeting DECEMBER 1998
A complaint against the Clutha Leader for failing to publish the letters of a candidate for the local council has been rejected by the New Zealand Press Council.
Peter Walsh complained that from the time he announced he was standing for the Clutha District Council on 23 July, the Clutha Leader had refused to publish any of his letters to the editor.
He claimed letters from the local mayor and councillors had been published but his replies to them had not. As well, a fellow candidate had had his name in the paper four times and his photograph twice. The newspaper’s refusal to publish his letters was not fair.
In reply the editor of the Southland Times which company owns the Clutha Leader, said that since nominations had closed for the council elections, no letters from any candidate had been published by the Leader. It had decided that because there areso many candidates the fairest approach was not to publish any letters.
Mr Walsh’s claim the mayor and councillors had had letters published was incorrect. With regard to the candidate who appeared in the news reports, Tom Boyle was the co-ordinator of Big River Promotions. The activities of that organisation, unconnected to the election, were covered because of their news value, the editor said.
The editor said Mr Walsh had no reason to complain about unfair treatment.
Mr Walsh made no response to the editor’s contention that the Leader had not published letters from the mayor or councillors.
The Press Council has long upheld the right of editors to decide which letters to publish. In this case there are no special circumstances which convince the Council to ignore that longstanding convention.
The Clutha Leader had acted consistently in refusing to publish the letters of any candidates. Reporting on the activities of Big River Promotions had not contravened the paper’s policy. The complaint was not upheld.