Case Number: 778

Council Meeting: May 2000

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Hawkes Bay Today

Ruling Categories: Letters to the Editor, Closure, Non-Publication

A complaint against Hawke's Bay To-day by one of its readers over the contents of a letter to the editor, has not been upheld by the New Zealand Press Council.

Michelle Pyke complained to the editor about a letter published in the newspaper on 29 March. It dealt with a community meeting at Westshore and referred to Dave Bosley and his following at the meeting. The letter concluded "it takes more than a couple of maggots to make a sheep's carcase."

Ms Pyke claimed the final paragraph of the published letter was thoroughly offensive and was below even the lowest of publishing standards. Further, because the letter referred to people who attended the meeting, she had by implication been called a maggot. "This type of personal attack should not have been published," she said.

In his response to the Press Council the editor defended the decision to publish the letter. It was a response to comments made by Dave Bosley and Mr Bosley was the only person named in the letter thus he could see no connection to Ms Pyke. A letter from Mr Bosley was subsequently published but a letter from Ms Pyke on the same subject was not. It took the form of verse.

In declining to uphold the complaint the Press Council said the link suggested by Ms Pyke between the reference to maggots and herself was far too tenuous for the letter to be considered an obnoxious personal attack.

An additional point of dissatisfaction raised by Ms Pyke was that in an article published on 18 March , those who supported the Westshore meeting (Ms Pyke was one of the named supporters) were labelled as "activists" with "an inflammatory and derogatory connotation." Ms Pyke preferred the label "community activist." The editor did not comment on the additional point except to say that"activist" was not a derogatory term. He understood the term was descriptive of a person who was politically active.

The editor of Hawke's Bay Today, Jim Eagles is a member of the Press Council, but was not present at the meeting when the complaint was discussed.