Reporters Without Borders Annual Report 2004 - New Zealand
|Publisher||Reporters Without Borders|
|Cite as||Reporters Without Borders, Reporters Without Borders Annual Report 2004 - New Zealand, 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/46e690fcc.html [accessed 29 January 2015]|
New Zealand continued to be the freest country in the Pacific region for the news media. The social democratic government has even become the champion of press freedom in the region, especially as regards the authorities of Tonga.
As in Australia, the concentration of media ownership in a few hands threatens diversity. The Australian group Fairfax, which already owns a dozen dailies, three weeklies and several community newspapers, bought all of the New Zealand publications owned by Rupert Murdoch's press group in June 2003. Fairfax also got control of a dozen magazines.
Media coverage of the invasion of Iraq elicited criticism from the public, which was largely hostile to the war. About 1,500 demonstrators protested outside Television New Zealand and the leading daily, the New Zealand Herald, in Auckland on 12 April accusing them of serving up propaganda in support of US policy. Three teams of journalists from New Zealand were embedded in coalition units during the invasion.
Harassment and obstruction
Maori leaders on 5 February 2003 banned non-indigenous media from covering the next day's celebrations of New Zealand's national festivity traditionally held in Waitangi, where the treaty marking the start of British sovereignty over the country was signed. Waitangi is controlled by the Maoris' Ngapuhi tribe. One of the tribe's leaders said the ban was prompted by the previous year's unfavourable coverage by non-Maori journalists, which had tarnished the Maoris' image. These comments were relayed by a Maori Television Service representative, Derek Fox, who said the white-dominated media were "disrespectful" of Maori culture. New Zealand Herald editor Gavin Ellis called the ban a "direct threat to press freedom."
The New Zealand Herald on 24 February received a threatening letter signed "11 September" and containing a powdery substance. Similar letters were sent to the US, British and Australian embassies. The Auckland police said one of the letters contained cyanide. The threats concerned the imminent war in Iraq and the tension during the 2003 Americas Cup. The New Zealand Herald received a second letter on 5 March announcing an imminent terrorist attacks with cyanide.
Cartoonist Malcom Evans was fired by the New Zealand Herald in August as a result of pressure from New Zealand's Jewish community over a series of cartoons criticising the Israeli government. He had used a Star of David to represent Israel and had compared the situation in the occupied territories to apartheid. Evans, who denied that he was in any way anti-Semitic, said that prior to his dismissal he had several times resisted pressure from his editors to stop doing cartoons on this subject.