BOUNLARN KHAMWANTHONG AGAINST NEW ZEALAND HERALD

Case Number: 2344

Council Meeting: SEPTEMBER 2013

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: New Zealand Herald

Ruling Categories: Errors, Apology and Correction Sought
Accuracy
Defamation/Damaging To Reputation

1. Bounlarn Khamwanthong complained to the Press Council about a New Zealand Herald column which he said damaged his business and his reputation. The complaint is not upheld.

Background
2. The ‘Sideswipe’ column published in the newspaper and online on July 24 quoted a café customer who said some of her leftover pizza, which she was hoping to take home, had been eaten by a staff member.

Complaint
3. Mr Khamwanthong disputed the customer’s account of what happened, saying his staff were not in the habit of eating leftover pizza. In this case the customer’s pizza had been mistaken for a staff pizza.
4. He said that the column had identified his café and damage had been done to his business and reputation.
5. He complained that he was unable to post comments to the online version disputing the customer’s account of what happened and about the delay in getting Herald staff to respond to his concerns.
6. Nor was Mr Khamwanthong happy with the Herald publishing his version of events in the Sideswipe column the following day. He had wanted his posts published instead.

The Newspaper’s Response
1. New Zealand Herald editor Shayne Currie said the original item in the column was accurate and materially true in the eyes of the customer. A staff member ate at least one piece of pizza that was meant to have been packaged up for the customer to take away.
2. But, regardless, he said the newspaper had dealt with Mr Khamwanthong’s complaint swiftly, fairly and appropriately.
3. Neither Mr Khamwanthong nor his café had been named and Mr Currie did not accept the café was readily identifiable.
4. He said Mr Khamwanthong’s posts had not been published because the newspaper’s online comments section was not the appropriate forum for a ‘tit-for-tat’ with Herald readers.
5. Instead, the online article was amended and the newspaper followed up with a further item in which Mr Khamwanthong’s version of events was published.

Decision
6. The Press Council accepts that the newspaper responded appropriately to Mr Khamwanthong’s complaint with an item in the next day’s Sideswipe column giving his account of what happened, and by amending the online version of the original item. An earlier amendment to the online version might have avoided a complaint to the Press Council.

7. The complaint is not upheld.

Press Council members considering this complaint were Sir John Hansen, Tim Beaglehole, Liz Brown, Pip Bruce Ferguson, Kate Coughlan, Chris Darlow, Sandy Gill, Penny Harding, Clive Lind and Stephen Stewart.
John Roughan took no part in the consideration of this complaint.