Chinese Times Loses Case for Inaccurate and Unfair Reporting on Falun Gong
(Minghui.org) After three months of investigation and discussion, the New Zealand Press Council ruled on November 21, 2015, that the Chinese Times had breached the principles of accuracy, fairness, and balance on its report about Falun Gong in July 2015. On December 19, almost a month after the judgment, the Chinese Times published the council's full adjudication in Chinese on page C2 of the newspaper.
About 40 pro-Communist Party Chinese, organized by the United Chinese Associations of New Zealand, harassed and insulted Falun Gong practitioners in front of the Chinese consulate in Auckland on July 16, 2015.
The Chinese Times published an article headlined “Falun Gong Practitioners Regularly Congregate in Front of the Consulate.” It was sub-headed “Chinese community groups join forces to remonstrate with them.” It was published on page B4 of the Chinese Times on Saturday July 18.
The single-paragraph article reported on a protest outside of the Chinese Consulate by Falun Gong practitioners, and a group of people trying to convince them to move.
However, the article was accompanied by a longer “Joint Declaration” by five Chinese community groups from around New Zealand, which calls Falun Gong a "cult" that “slanders the Chinese government,” “damages the image of the Chinese people,” and “blocks the sidewalk.” It says the groups have complained to the Auckland Council about Falun Dafa’s “long-term occupation of the sidewalk outside the Consulate General entrance.”
Falun Gong practitioners contacted the newspaper about the inaccurate report, and had a meeting with one of the Chinese Times’ editors on July 23. The editor told them that the newspaper would not print the Falun Gong side of the story, since content had to be approved by the Chinese consulate, and such approval would not be forthcoming. The newspaper refused further communication.
The Falun Dafa Association, represented by Kerryn Webster of the Auckland law firm Wilson Harle, filed a complaint with the New Zealand Press Council.
Adjudication by New Zealand Press Council
The Press Council concluded that the Chinese Times article breached Principle 1: Accuracy, fairness and balance: “The report falls short in its obligations to be an accurate and balanced news story. It gives voice to the remonstrators and even describes the weather, but fails to balance the story with the views of the Falun Dafa members. It generalises by claiming the remonstrators spoke 'on behalf of the Chinese community' as a whole, when we can assume a diversity of opinion.
“The editor’s view that the practitioners’ actions were emotive, and neither pertinent nor news, does not excuse reporting on the event without balance. It is unfair to criticise the practitioners without giving them a right of reply either in the story or in a follow-up piece or letter to the editor. By doing so, the Chinese Times has failed to ensure the accuracy of the article as well; the article claims the 'protest was peaceful and reasoned throughout,' yet Falun Dafa says police were called and the remonstrators asked to leave. The editor does not dispute this, so we can only go on the practitioners’ version of events. The complaint against Principle 1 is upheld.”
Even though the Chinese Times claimed the joint declaration was an advertisement, the Council ruled: “The Joint Declaration is an advertisement and beyond our mandate to rule on the content. The complaint against Principle 4 is not upheld. However, the Council is concerned that it was not clearly labelled as an ad, but rather was made to look part of the article. The editor is responsible for all a newspaper’s content, and it is her/his obligation to make it clear to readers what is paid advertising and what is journalism. The Chinese Times failed to do this.”
Mr. Fang, chair of the Falun Dafa Association of New Zealand, commented: “The contrast between the righteous and the unrighteous is obvious. The persecution of Falun Gong in China by Jiang's gang is illegal. Falun Gong practitioners in China have been brutally persecuted. It's indisputable. Overseas Falun Gong practitioners have held peaceful protests in front of Chinese embassies and consulates for the past 16 years. Local governments and the general public completely understand and support them. This kind of protest and truth-clarification will continue until the end of the persecution. The organizers and participants of the so-called 'remonstration' have been influenced by the CCP's slanderous propaganda. I hope they will realize that as soon as possible, stand on the side of justice, and never do anything they might regret in terms of their own future.”
Mr. Kerry Gore, a renowned New Zealand attorney, said the New Zealand Press Council had made an outstanding decision. The Chinese Times article had breached principles of accuracy, fairness, and balance, which are essential for media reports. He believed the Chinese Times would lose reader credibility, to say nothing about its failure to serve the public. The Press Council's decision, in his opinion, "is a good legal lesson" for all Chinese media about respecting the principles of news reporting.