JEREMY CONNELL AGAINST NEW ZEALAND HERALD

Case Number: 2342

Council Meeting: SEPTEMBER 2013

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: New Zealand Herald

Ruling Categories: Balance, Lack Of

1) Jeremy Connell, of Hastings, complained to the New Zealand Press Council that articles in the Herald on Sunday and the New Zealand Herald about a passenger who had racially abused a Pakistani-born taxi driver in Invercargill were unbalanced.
2) The complaint is not upheld.

Background
3) The articles published on July 28 and 29, 2013, recorded how the taxi driver captured on camera personal abuse from a passenger, Greg Shuttleworth, who also refused to pay his fare.
4) Shuttleworth, using foul language, told the driver, Tariq Humayun, to go back to where he came from and was derogatory of Islam as a religion. Mr Humayun was reporting as saying he was deeply upset by the attack.
5) The recording of the incident was available on-line.
6) The Herald on Sunday reported the incident on July 28 and the following day, the New Zealand Herald identified the passenger, who was quoted as saying he regretted the incident which involved alcohol and that he wanted to apologise.
7) However, he also said he remained concerned about Muslims in New Zealand and why they had come to New Zealand.
8) Other people were also interviewed for the second article, including Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt and Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy.

The Complaint
9) Mr Connell complained the articles “totally lacked any shred of balance, and instead served to vilify (crucify) an ordinary member of the public who held a widely-held and quite rational view, using a privacy-breaching video recording.”
10) The papers had tried to paint it as a racial issue when it was about Islam and the violent, fascist beliefs it had become associated with. Western populations needed to be educated about the growing military threat and the media had been most unhelpful on that important task, “almost to the point of subversion.”
11) A balanced article would have discussed some of the reasons behind anti-Islamic sentiment.

The Newspapers’ Response
12) Shayne Currie, editor of the Herald, replied that the articles were fair, balanced and accurate. The passenger had apologised for his comments.
13) The complainant was trying to use the Press Council process to present extremist and offensive views. No Press Council principles were breached.

Decision
14) The stories were straightforward reports of an incident that attracted considerable public attention thanks to the availability of the recording online.
15) The essence of Mr Connell’s complaint was that the newspapers should have sought to explain the reasons for anti-Islam sentiment. The New Zealand Herald did cover that aspect in its report with Mr Shuttleworth and there was no need to seek further comment.
16) Seeking balance does not mean searching for any other party who may disagree with a particular viewpoint. Such a pursuit in this case would have led only to distortion of an incident that the perpetrator regretted.

17) 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.