Case Number: 839

Council Meeting: September 2001

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: The Press

Ruling Categories: Balance, Lack Of

The New Zealand Press Council has not upheld a complaint by a former and unsuccessful NewLabour and Alliance candidate against The Press.

Mr Michael Newlove, who in recent elections stood for the St Alban’s seat in Parliament and the North Christchurch ward on Canterbury Regional Council, complained to the council about a report of his conviction in court on a charge of offensive behaviour.

The complaint essentially fell into four parts: the article inaccurately described him as a postal clerk when he had left NZ Post in 1992; it was accompanied by a photograph taken without his permission; it gave the wrong impression about the nature of his offence; and, probably the key point, the publicity given to the case was excessive.

Responding to the complaint, the editor of The Press said Mr Newlove’s occupation had been given as postal clerk because that was how it was listed on the charge sheet in court but in any case the report had also stated that he was now on an invalid benefit; the paper did not require permission to photograph someone in a public place and photographing accused persons in the vicinity of the court was common practice; the report had closely followed the details of the offence given in court; and the coverage was justified because it involved a person who had twice stood for public office and citizens were entitled to be aware of any illegal activities by would-be politicians.

The Council did not consider there was anything wrong with the paper’s coverage of Mr Newlove’s conviction which appeared to be fair, accurate and in the public interest.
One of the most important penalties for breaking the law was the likelihood of publicity. And one of the most important roles of the media was to inform the public about those wishing to represent them.

The Press was quite entitled to report the case and, given that Mr Newlove had offered himself for public office, it was understandable that his conviction should be highlighted.

The complaint was not upheld.