Final submission from the Centre.
12 June 1998
New Zealand Press Council
Dear Mr Jenkins,
Thank you for your letter of 2 June in which you give the Centre the opportunity to comment on the response of the Editor of the Otago Daily Times, Mr R Charteris, to the complaint of the Centre.
The Centre notes again the, this time overtly stated, view of Mr Charteris that he has the " . . . right to publish what I like". Mr Charteris goes on to mention that he accepts that he has obligations but immediately reverts to his position of total editorial power - in the context of any letter from the undersigned - by saying "Naturally, as Editor, I reserve the right of final judgment".
The Centre has previously submitted that only in totalitarian countries can the editor of a media organ claim absolute power over content. The Centre further submits that whatever the views of either a newspaper publisher or editor may be, he or she is obliged to act in accordance with the principle of the right of the people of a democracy to know.
The purpose of this complaint is to establish this principle as opposed to the claims of Mr Charteris that his power as an editor gives him the freedom and the right to manipulate the world view of his readers by withholding information from them.
The world view of the people of the Soviet Union was manipulated in this way by the State run media, as was and is that of the people of Communist China.
The Council will no doubt be aware of the recent finding of the Court of Appeal in the case brought by Mr David Lange where in their decision the Justices made this same point, ie that the media have an obligation to put information of public interest before the people.
J M STEVENSON (Mr)