PETER ZOHRAB AGAINST THE DOMINION POST

Case Number: 2065

Council Meeting: FEBRUARY 2009

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: The Dominion Post

Ruling Categories: Balance, Lack Of
Bias
Editorial Discretion
Obligation to Publish

Peter Zohrab complains to the Press Council about an article “Repeat wife beater goes free” published in The Dominion Post newspaper on 23 October 2008.

The complaint is not upheld.

The Complaint
In relation to the specific article, Mr Zohrab states that all but one of the comments published in the report came from “females [who are] feminist and anti-male”. He claims that this reflects a general pattern of anti-male bias which is also evident in some of the newspaper’s earlier articles. He submits a number of articles which he claims support his contention. For the purposes of this adjudication, it is not necessary to separately identify each of those articles.

Mr Zohrab identifies himself as a “Men’s/Fathers’ Rights activist”. He asserts that because of his profile and experience in those areas, the newspaper should seek his counter-balancing views every time it seeks the views of Women’s Refuge so that the pro-male perspective would then also be reported. He opines that a newspaper must always have comment from pro-male as well as pro-female sources on gender issues. Implicit in his complaint is the argument that without both of those sources being given an opportunity to comment, the newspaper article would lack balance.


The Newspaper’s Response
The editor rejects Mr Zohrab’s complaint. He indicates he would not agree to Mr Zohrab’s request to seek out his views and he rejects the contention by Mr Zohrab that he is qualified to assume any position as a spokesperson on gender issues. He rejects outright the claim made by Mr Zohrab that the newspaper reports on domestic violence/ gender issues show a pattern of being anti-male.

Discussion
Both the specific article complained about and the articles then submitted to support the generic complaint of anti-male bias, have required the editor to make a determination regarding person/s whom he regarded as suitable to offer comment on the matters being reported.

That determination is the sole preserve of an editor. It is not a matter in which the Council will interfere.

In correspondence with the Council, Mr Zohrab attempts to qualify himself as an appropriate pro-male spokesperson. For the reason set out above, it is not for the Council to assess his qualifications. It would be quite wrong for the Council to do so.

While it is evident Mr Zohrab feels aggrieved at the editor’s exercise of his discretion he has, like other readers, the forum provided by the letters to the editor section of the newspaper. This provides a place for vigorous discussion of a range of views.

Neither the specific complaint nor the general complaint is upheld. It is frequently not necessary for a newspaper to present all possible points of view. It is for an editor to determine who should provide comment.

Press Council members considering this complaint were Barry Paterson (Chairman), Aroha Beck, Pip Bruce Ferguson, Ruth Buddicom, Kate Coughlan, Penny Harding, Keith Lees, Alan Samson and Lynn Scott.

Clive Lind took no part in the consideration of this complaint.