Complaint to the Editor of the Otago Daily Times
25 April 1998
Mr R Charteris
Otago Daily Times
P.O. Box 181
Dear Mr Charteris,
It is with regret that, in accordance with the procedures of the New Zealand
Press Council, a complaint is hereby laid in respect of the article
"Work-for-dole scheme only the start", which appeared as part of "The Week
in Politics" series in the Otago Daily Times of Saturday 25 April 1998.
This article contained no reference to the fact that New Zealand is bound
by international law to abide by conventions involving the use of involuntary
labour and that those conventions are required to be written into the domestic
law of member countries.
While the Centre freely accepts that the rights of a free press include the
right to publish only what it sees fit and to be biased, the Centre is of
the view that withholding information from the people of a democratic society
falls more into the area of propaganda than freedom of the press. The view
of the Centre with regard to bias as a function of press freedom, is to tell
both sides of the story, thus making all the facts known to the reader, and
then to advocate by reasoned argument one point of view or the other.
It is suggested therefore, that in a free society your readers have the right
of access to all the known facts and that you have the right to advocate
one view within those known facts.
It is, for example, a matter of fact that these conventions exist and that
New Zealand has ratified them and has not denounced them. It is also a matter
of fact that you were aware of them from the press releases of the Centre,
and that you were also aware from the press releases, that the New Zealand
Criminal Justice Act provides that a convicted criminal cannot be sentenced
to community service without his consent.
You will also be aware from the press releases that the reason for the
requirement of the criminals consent, is to abide by the provisions of the
Forced Labour Convention, 1930.
The Centre notes that at no time of which the Centre is aware since the Ministers
announcement of the "work for the dole" scheme on Wednesday 22 April, have
you ever made known to your readers these facts.
The Centre is however aware of the fact that you covered this matter in an
article on the work of the Centre in this area on 19 February 1997. The Centre
would submit to you Sir, that one article fourteen months ago is not sufficient
to constitute balance; particularly when it is considered that all media
carried the story of the scheme with a high priority.
As you will be aware Sir, in feudal times the nobility considered it had
the obligation to represent the rights of those over whom it exercised power,
thus giving rise to the concept of noblesse oblige - privilege entails
It is the view of the Centre Sir, that in these times of democracy it is
the media with their privilege who are the new nobility and to whom the people
of a free society turn for justice when their elected representatives use
the power they hold in the name of the people, to oppress those same people,
in defiance of major international agreements on human rights. It is also
the view of the Centre that it is on you the media that the people depend
for the enlightened development of New Zealand society.
Neither the Centre nor its Director wishes to receive credit for this work,
they seek only to have the information put before the people.
For your information please find enclosed further copies of the press releases.
J M STEVENSON (Mr)
Reply from the Editor of the Otago Daily Times
OTAGO DAILY TIMES
PO BOX 181,
TELEPHONE: (03) 477-4760
FAX: (03) 474-7422
April 27, 1998
Mr J M Stevenson
7 McCurdy St
Dear Mr Stevenson,
Your letter of April 25 complaining at our "Week in Politics" article of
that day is noted, as is your opinion concerning "propaganda". I cannot agree
with your assertion the article falls into that category. Neverless, if that
is your opinion you are free to express it. I am willing to consider for
publication a letter to the Editor stating your view should you care to submit