New Zealand – Press Council (1972)

Statement of Principles of the Press Council of New Zealand, adopted in 1972.

The New Zealand Press Council was established in 1972 by newspaper publishers and journalists to provide the public with an independent forum for resolution of complaints against the press. It also has other important objectives as stated in the Constitution of the Press Council. Complaint resolution is its core work, but promotion of freedom of the press and maintenance of the press in accordance with the highest professional standards rank equally with that first objective.

There are some broad principles to which the Council is committed. There is no more important principle than freedom of expression. In a democratically governed society the public has a right to be informed, and much of that information comes from the media. Individuals also have rights and sometimes they must be balanced against competing interests such as the public’s right to know. Freedom of expression and freedom of the media are inextricably bound. The print media is jealous in guarding freedom of expression not just for publishers’ sake, but, more importantly, in the public interest. In complaint resolution by the Council freedom of expression and public interest will play dominant roles.

It is important to the Council that the distinction between fact, and conjecture, opinions or comment be maintained. This Principle does not interfere with rigorous analysis, of which there is an increasing need, and is the hallmark of good journalism.

The Council seeks the co-operation of editors and publishers in adherence to these Principles and disposing of complaints. Editors have the ultimate responsibility to their proprietors for what appears editorially in their publications, and to their readers and the public for adherence to the standards of ethical journalism which the Council upholds in this Statement of Principles.

These Principles are not a rigid code, but may be used by complainants should they wish to point the Council more precisely to the nature of their complaint. A complainant may use other words, or expressions, in a complaint, and nominate grounds not expressly stated in these Principles.

1. Accuracy
Publications (newspapers and magazines) should be guided at all times by accuracy, fairness and balance, and should not deliberately mislead or misinform readers by commission, or omission.

2. Corrections
Where it is established that there has been published information that is materially incorrect then the publication should promptly correct the error giving the correction fair prominence. In appropriate circumstances the correction may be accompanied by an apology and a right of reply by an affected person or persons.

3. Privacy
Everyone is entitled to privacy of person, space and personal information, and these rights should be respected by publications. Nevertheless the right of privacy should not interfere with publication of matters of public record, or obvious significant public interest.

Publications should exercise care and discretion before identifying relatives of persons convicted or accused of crime where the reference to them is not directly relevant to the matter reported.

Those suffering from trauma or grief call for special consideration, and when approached, or enquiries are being undertaken, careful attention is to be given to their sensibilities.

4. Confidentiality
Editors have a strong obligation to protect against disclosure of the identity of confidential sources. They also have a duty to take reasonable steps to satisfy themselves that such sources are well informed and that the information they provide is reliable.

5. Children and Young People
Editors should have particular care and consideration for reporting on and about children and young people.

6. Comment and Fact
Publications should, as far as possible, make proper distinctions between reporting of facts and conjecture, passing of opinions and comment.

7. Advocacy
A publication is entitled to adopt a forthright stance and advocate a position on any issue.

8. Discrimination
Publications should not place gratuitous emphasis on gender, religion, minority groups, sexual orientation, race, colour or physical or mental disability unless the description is in the public interest.

9. Subterfuge
Editors should generally not sanction misrepresentation, deceit or subterfuge to obtain information for publication unless there is a clear case of public interest and the information cannot be obtained in any other way.

10. Headlines and Captions
Headlines, sub-headings, and captions should accurately and fairly convey the substance of the report they are designed to cover.

11. Photographs
Editors should take care in photographic and image selection and treatment. They should not publish photographs or images which have been manipulated without informing readers of the fact and, where significant, the nature and purpose of the manipulation. Those involving situations of grief and shock are to be handled with special consideration for the sensibilities of those affected.

12. Letters
Selection and treatment of letters for publication are the prerogative of editors who are to be guided by fairness, balance, and public interest in the correspondents’ views.

13. Council Adjudications
Editors are obliged to publish the substance of Council adjudications that uphold a complaint.

Note: Editors and publishers are aware of the extent of this Council rule that is not reproduced in full here.

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