RICHARD RYAN AGAINST THE PRESS

Case Number: 1058

Council Meeting: JULY 2006

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: The Press

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

The Press Council has not upheld a complaint by Mr Richard Ryan about the decision of The Press not to publish two of his letters to the editor.

BACKGROUND
In the first instance Mr Ryan wrote to the editor in response to a letter published on February 1, on the controversy over the screening of the Virgin Mary episode of South Park. Mr Ryan’s response suggested that the letter-writer had implied the Catholic Church showed a lack of respect for homosexuals.
Mr Ryan wrote to The Press again in response to an editorial on February 3 which commented, mostly in laudatory terms, on the encyclical Deus Caritas Est. In this case Mr Ryan “took umbrage” at the passage “his encyclical offers little hope to those groups who feel ostracised by the church – women shut out of the clergy and homosexuals in particular.”
Neither letter was published and Mr Ryan complained to the Press Council, arguing that by not publishing his letters truth had been suppressed. He supported his complaints with a variety of references which may be summarised as explaining the Church’s position
that while the practice of homosexuality is “intrinsically disordered” individuals with deep-seated homosexual inclinations “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.”

RESPONSE OF THE NEWSPAPER
The editor of The Press in a letter to the Press Council of May 15 said that in respect of the South Park controversy the letters columns had carried a lively debate “with the Catholic perspective well represented”. He pointed out the newspaper received far more letters than it could publish and aimed at using a wide range of writers. Although Mr Ryan’s letters were not used in these instances he has had 28 letters published since November 1996, most of them defending Catholicism.
The editor also submitted to the Press Council articles which it published containing further analyses of the position of the Catholic Church on homosexuality and the priesthood.
Mr Ryan rejected The Press’ argument. Mr Ryan said the other letter-writer had been allowed three letters in four weeks. He said the past record of his own letters being published was irrelevant in these instances.

CONCLUSION
The Press Council has stated on many occasions and in its statements of principles that it is the right of newspapers to publish, or not, letters submitted to them for publication. The principles also require editors to be guided by fairness and balance. The Press has demonstrated that overall its coverage of the issues here has canvassed a range of opinion.

The Press Council does not uphold the complaint.

Press Council members considering this complaint were Barry Paterson (Chairman), Aroha Beck, Ruth Buddicom, John Gardner, Penny Harding, Denis McLean, Alan Samson and Terry Snow.