YI LIU AGAINST HOME VOICE

Case Number: 2610

Council Meeting: SEPTEMBER 2017

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Home Voice

Ruling Categories: Accuracy
Balance, Lack Of
Comment and Fact
Conflict of Interest
Unfair Coverage

Overview

Yi Liu is a member of the Falun Dafa Association of New Zealand whose members practice Falun Gong.Home Voice is a Wellington publication in the Chinese Language. On May 5 it carried a report of Falun Gong practitioners’ protests against another Chinese publication, theWaikato Weekly, that had printed two articles critical of Falun Gong.

The Waikato Weekly’s articles were also the subject of a complaint to the Press Council which was upheld. (Case No 2609)

The Complaint

Mr Liu complained that Home Voice breached the Council’s principles of accuracy fairness and balance, presented comment as fact and had an undeclared conflict of interest since the editor was also chair of the Wellington Association for Promoting Peaceful Reunification of China. He considered it inaccurate to call Falun Gong a “cult” and unfair to deny them a right of reply to an article that was not balanced by including their point of view.

The Response

The owner of Home Voice, Kevin Zeng, responded that it was an independent newspaper fully funded by advertising and income from his other businesses. He believed his paper had the right to adopt a forthright stance or advocate on any issue, to publish an article that differed from the views of the Falun Dafa Association and to reject material supplied by the association that were in conflict with views his paper had published.

The Decision

This complaint is identical in almost all details to the Waikato Weekly but differs in an important respect. The article in theHome Voice was clearly attributed to two organisations, the China Peaceful Reunification Federation of New Zealand Inc and the United Chinese Associations of New Zealand Inc. The complaint therefore cannot be upheld on the grounds that the paper failed to distinguish opinion and fact or declare a conflict of interest. The article was clearly labelled as the opinion of the two organisations and the paper had declared their interest.

As an item of clearly identified opinion, the article is not subject to the same standards of fairness and balance as a report presented as fact.Home Voice readers would have known they were receiving a one-sided view of Falun Gong. On the question of accuracy, the Council does not think it untrue to describe Falun Gong as a “cult”. The term is commonly used for religious or cultural groups outside the mainstream of their religion or culture.

While not upholding the complaint the Press Council finds it regrettable in this case that the newspaper saw no need to allow those criticized a right of reply. As we noted in theWaikato Weekly decision, the Chinese community in New Zealand is a large and growing one and deserves to be served by fair, objective, independent newspapers that meet the standards expected of news media in New Zealand as laid down in the Press Council’s Statement of Principles. As an example many newspapers would have offered a right of reply by publishing a letter to the editor for instance. The Council can offer advice to newspaper on the application of our Statement of Principles.

This complaint is not upheld for the reasons stated above.

Press Council members considering the complaint were Sir John Hansen, Liz Brown, Jo Cribb, Chris Darlow, Tiumalu Peter Fa’afiu, Jenny Farrell, John Roughan, Hank Schouten, Mark Stevens, Christina Tay and Tim Watkin.