Last Updated: Friday, 16 February 2018, 15:01 GMT

Freedom of the Press 2008 - New Zealand

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 29 April 2008
Cite as Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2008 - New Zealand, 29 April 2008, available at: [accessed 18 February 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Status: Free
Legal Environment: 2 (of 30)
Political Environment: 5 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 6 (of 30)
Total Score: 13 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)

New Zealand media remained vigorous and free during the year. Press freedom in New Zealand is provided for by convention rather than constitutional guarantee, and supplemented by Freedom of Information legislation passed in 1982. While media in New Zealand has been largely unaffected by anti-terrorism legislation, in one instance, a contempt of court charge was filed against the Dominion Post after it published intercepted communications and other inadmissible evidence relating to the discovery of an alleged paramilitary training camp in Urewera Mountains. During the year, the self-regulatory NZ Press Council conducted its first ever independent review since it was founded in 1972. Report recommendations included turning the council into a legal entity independent from its media funders, streamlining complaints processes and calling for an independent review every five years. The broadcasting industry is regulated by the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

While the news media was generally free of interference, there were several instances of media coming under pressure from political actors. In a decision condemned by the Commonwealth Press Union, a wide-ranging coalition of parliament members supported a rule change which banned satire, ridicule and denigration of MPs using television footage shot from parliamentary galleries. In addition, Amnesty International criticized attempts by Chinese authorities to interfere with free expression and media freedom in New Zealand. The group cited eight recent incidents involving Chinese officials, including one in March in which two local journalists were barred from photographing Chinese Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan.

Four companies, all foreign-owned, continue to control a significant portion of the country's print media sector. Australia's John Fairfax Holdings owns 48 percent of New Zealand's daily newspaper circulation. The New Zealand Herald, the largest circulation daily, and a significant slice of smaller provincial and suburban newspapers are owned by the rival Australian Provincial Newspapers (APN) group, amounting to another 43 percent of the newspaper market. The Australian Consolidated Press dominates New Zealand magazines. The state-owned corporation Television New Zealand dominates television with two free-to-air channels and Sky TV holds a monopoly over pay television. A trend emerged during 2007 in which a growing number of media companies were taken over by private equity corporations such as Australia's Ironbridge, which bought out Mediaworks, the operator of a commercial radio network and TV3. Rationalization by media companies, especially APN, forced significant job losses during the year. Concerns over the quality of the news media contributed to a union-led initiative to create the Movement for a Democratic Media. Roughly 75 percent of the population accessed the internet, which was open and unrestricted.

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