Louisa Wall: “The Media have a responsibility to do no harm”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced yesterday that she is is chairing a meeting in Paris next month in a attempt to find a way to prevent terrorists from being able to social media to promote and publicise terrorism.

Labour MP Louisa Wall on Facebook yesterday widened her focus to ‘The Media’:

Kia Ora. The Media and those that transmit their political content and other political content generated for these public mediums, are defined as The Fourth Estate or fourth power that refers to the press and news media both in explicit capacity of advocacy and implicit ability to frame political issues. It is time that it was formally recognized as part of a political system, as it wields significant indirect social influence.

This would impose a Duty of Care on The Media – a formalisation of the social contract, the implicit responsibilities requiring adherence to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others.

The Media have a responsibility to do no harm. Kia Kaha PM Jacinda Ardern for the meeting on May 15 – two months after the Christchurch terror attacks which claimed the lives of 50 people – which aims to see world leaders and tech company bosses agree to the “Christchurch call” – a pledge to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.

Linked to NZ Herald: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to lead global attempt to shutdown social media terrorism

This prompted a reaction from some journalists.

Andrea Vance (@avancenz):

Uh, what? Bringing media under control of Parliament … is this govt policy ?

(Facebook post image included)

Liked by SamSachdeva, Hamish McNeilly, Hamish Rutherford, Stacey Kirk, Laura McQuillan, Richard Boock, Paul Harper, Kim Baker Wilson, Tracey Watkins, John Campbell (all media/journalists) plus Chris Bishop (MP).

Two lawyers add their views:

Graeme Edgeler (@GraemeEdgeler):

It sounds bad, but I kind of feel most of these things are already present, certainly for online and broadcast media anyway. Duty of care is not a ridiculous paraphrase of the duties on media in some defamation defences, and under the HDCA.

Stephen Franks (@franks_lawyer):

Without the defences of truth and honest opinion it is completely sinister and as far from the law that protected both freedom and honest public discourse as we could get.

Graeme Edgeler:

I was thinking, for example, of the defamation defence of responsible communication on a matter public interest as provided in Durie v Gardiner [2018] NZCA 278.

Stephen Frank:

I understand that and am very conscious of NZ judges massive indifference to the vital role of liability for lies, as a condition/corollary of free speech, but your comment is still misleading rationalisation of sinister nonsense from Ardern and her fumbling Minister of Justice.

That is widening somewhat from what Wall posted.

Despite the concerns shown by journalists I don’t think Louisa Wall has much sway in Labour let alone in Government. She is ranked 23 (Clare Curran is 22), despite being an MP for 11 years, a term and a bit from 2008 as a list MP, and since 2011 as MP for Manurewa (2017 majority 8,374).

Winston Peters hasn’t dropped legal action against National Party

Conflicting reports this morning on whether Winston Peters has dropped legal action against the National Party and National MPs.

NZ Herald: Winston Peters hasn’t dropped legal action against National Party

NZ First leader Winston Peters has agreed to drop his legal action and pay costs to former National Party leader Bill English and other former ministers over the leak of his superannuation overpayments.

Peters was taking legal action against English, Paula Bennett, Steven Joyce and Anne Tolley as well as two staff members while trying to uncover who leaked details of his superannuation overpayments to the media before last year’s election.

It is understood Peters has now agreed to withdraw the legal action and pay some of the legal costs for the National Party MPs and staff – believed to be about $10,000.

The National side had said they would take further action on costs if a settlement was not reached.

But Peters’ lawyer Brian Henry has just been on RNZ and has stated that this is incorrect.

He said that the first legal action was over – on behalf of Peters he had sought documents, and as is normal when that happens, costs needed to be paid. he wouldn’t confirm or deny the amount of costs.

The defendants will be identified when the next legal claim is lodged. Bill English, Paula Bennett, Anne Tolley, former ministerial staff Wayne Eagleson and Clark Hennessy, and journalists Lloyd Burr and Tim Murphy were included in the first action.

Henry would only say that action has been dropped against the two journalists. He says that they were never intended to be a part of the eventual legal action.

But he refused to say which of the MPs and staff might be still subject to future legal action.

Henry said no statement of claim has been lodged, and would not say when that was likely to happen – he said that these things take time.

Winston’s legal fishing fizzles into fake news

Winston Peters has made some bizarre claims about his legal action that targeted National MPs and staff plus a department head and two journalists. Peters is claiming a major victory, but it appears to be more like his fishing has fizzled.

His attempt to use his lawyer and the court to attack the then Prime Minister and other MPS, and also journalists, apparently without solid evidence, is quite alarming. His bluster has been busted.

Stuff has bizarre quotes from Peters on the end of the fishing expedition, if one of the journalists targeted can be believed.  Tim Murphy’s story  sounds far more plausible, claiming Peters may be doing some fake news.

Stuff: Winston Peters looks to ‘next phase’ of suing National over alleged privacy breach

Winston Peters is charging ahead with a legal battle against National Party politicians and staff over his Superannuation leak.

However, he has dropped his legal case against two journalists.

The deputy prime minister and NZ First leader alleges his privacy was breached by former government ministers and senior staff.

Last year, leaked information led to Peters being outed as having claimed more in Superannuation payments than what he was entitled to.

Following the leak, which led to news stories about the overpayments, he lodged legal proceedings, naming nine defendants.

The defendants named on the affidavit filed at the High Court were Ministry of Social Development chief executive Brendan Boyle, National leader Bill English and his former chief of staff Wayne Eagleson, former ministers Paula Bennett, Steven Joyce, and Anne Tolley.

The initial proceedings also named two journalists among the defendants, but Peters said “the application for pre-proceeding discovery against the two media intended defendants has been amicably resolved”.

Murphy responds to amicably resolved” with “That was probably because our refusals of his requests were always polite and we opted not to seek costs from him for wasting all of our time.”

On Friday, a National Party spokesman said Peters had withdrawn the current court papers against all named defendants in the National Party, and the court date had been vacated.

“We note that Mr Peters has withdrawn his action against all parties.

“We’re completely relaxed about any further steps he may or may not take.”

No further papers had been filed in their place, at this stage, the spokesman said.

However, Peters said he intended to continue with legal proceedings against the six National Party defendants.

He refused to say what the “second phase” of the legal proceedings would involve, citing sub judice, and whether he would be seeking damages.

Peters said he did not know when the second stage would start, adding that the court had not yet scheduled a date.

That’s a bizarre statement. The court date ‘has been vacated’, no further papers have been filed, so it is impossible for the court to set a new date with nothing to act on.

In regard to the initial naming of the Newshub and Newsroom journalists as defendants, Peters said he never attempted to breach journalistic privilege, and they were only named as defendants as part of the discovery process, “there was a wide range of information available about the misbehaviour of the perpetrators that I, as the plaintiff, was entitled to seek, and now have”.

I think that “only named as defendants as part of the discovery process” is an alarming admission. This could amount to abuse of the court process, and looks like an attack on how our media functions as a part of our democracy.

Tim Murphy’s take is in complete contrast – Peters throws in the towel.

He postured away for three months in the courts but yesterday abandoned his action against two journalists (myself and Newshub’s Lloyd Burr), signalled he’ll give up against the chief executive of the Ministry of Social Development and asked the High Court to cancel his hearing date against six National Party former ministers and staff.

Somewhere deep in his mind the Minister of Racing found it possible to call all this a victory and claim he will undertake a ‘second phase’ against his political opponents because they’ve allegedly told him through court affidavits more than he wanted to know.

…if his claim about the ‘new’  information from National is as accurate as his claim that we journalists provided the information his court action had sought, then he would be indulging in fake news.

Peters, via his idiosyncratic old legal ally Brian Henry, sought journalists’ notes, meeting notes, discussions with fellow journalists, phone, text and electronic records relating to the story which broke in August last year that he had taken much more money from the state for his super than that to which a person in his personal situation was entitled.

He got all-but-nothing of the above: one scrawled page of a few disconnected and opaque words from another journalist at Newshub attached to their affidavit, which advanced his cause not a jot. He did, however, get set right about his claims of a vast political-media conspiracy against him.

The two media affidavits under oath refused to provide any material which could, incrementally or substantially, lead to the identification of the source of the information about his super windfall.

They told Peters, 72, he was misguided and making claims that were just not true.

It sounds like Peters imagined a grand conspiracy theory and tried use the court to prove it – and failed.

Peters has a history of making serious accusations, claiming he has evidence, but failing to front up with any substance.

Claim after claim he had made in his own affidavit and statement of claim was rebutted clearly under oath. For example, people who Peters claimed spoke of the matter in advance of media inquiries to him have sworn that they had not known about his overpayments until the day of his own public outing of his ‘mistake’. Others swore they mentioned it to no one after having been briefed.

So the information Peters now has as a result of his legal action is that he his accusations and bluster was wrong?

Who to believe? The politician who held up a ‘No’ sign at a press conference when asked if his party received funds from millionaire Owen Glenn when it did?

The man who now tries to say black is white, night is day and journalists provided him with information he sought on interviews, communications and sources?

At 3.6% in the latest poll the number of people who believe or believe in Peters seem to be rapidly diminishing.

The man who had his lawyers sign and file this court action against National the day before the election and then purported to negotiate a possible coalition with them in good faith.

It’s not just National who should question whether a possible coalition was negotiated in good faith or not. Peters played the public then too.

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me

People have been fooled by Winston’s bluster many times.

Now this latest bluster has been busted he looks like an old fool.

After this, one could also go back to asking how much he knew about his superannuation overpayment, and when he knew. This legal attack on politicians and journalists and public servants looks like it could have been a deliberate diversion.

Murphy on ‘Winston goes fishing’

Journalist Tim Murphy, now at Newsroom,  is one of those who was served with legal papers today trying to discover who leaked information about the Winston Peters superannuation overpayment. He has written about it in Winston goes fishing.

He says that he has been included due to a single tweet, and for being ‘a long time media detractor’ of Peters.

It says Peters became aware of a tweet by me supposedly boasting that Newsroom was about to publish a story. No such claim was made on Twitter or elsewhere. It claims ‘innuendo” that the “story would destroy Peters’ political career”.

For that Murphy has been named as first defendant.

 No such indication could possibly have been taken from the tweet. In any case, the tweet was deliberate parody of news media promotion of their upcoming stories.

The actual documents are an application “for discovery before proceeding commenced under High Court rule 8.20” and an affidavit from a Remuera lawyer Clifton Killip Lyon.

For each defendant there is an attached schedule listing what it is that Peters’ lawyers want under this fishing – sorry, discovery – expedition. It ranges from journalists’ notes, phone records, emails and other communications to ministers’ documents and phone and meeting records.

“To issue proceedings,” the application says, “he [Peters] requires access to the document trail developed by the conduct of the intended defendant’s aforesaid conduct”.

It appears that Peters is trying to find evidence – if so that appears he may have made serious accusations without having much in the way solid evidence – and possibly no evidence apart from a bit of banter in social media.

Lyon and Henry have been instructed by Peters “to identify and sue” those responsible, once they have any information that can help them finalise their “pleadings”.

If Peters knew who leaked he would surely have just targeted them.

 

‘Mother of all scandals’ a wind up?

The Winston Peters superannuation overpayment story has highlighted, amongst other things, the dangers of over-egging things on Twitter,

Tim Murphy kicked things off in a tweet on Saturday.

This initiated a lot of speculation and questions over the weekend. The Super story eventually broke on Sunday evening when Peters issued a press statement.

A day later:

A danger of social media and disproportionate interest media coverage.

Winding Patrick Gower up should be avoided, he seems highly enough strung as it is.

When winding people up on Twitter these days could potentially escalate into nuclear war journalists should perhaps tweet with more care.

In New Zealand politics Twitter has become a significant factor. It is a small niche in social media generally, much of the public is oblivious to it and it’s influence, but it is a major player in exchanges amongst journalists.

Competition for the next click bait headline, joking and winding each other up, could have major repercussions.

We are hardly at risk of a nuclear war here, but we are risk of serious fallout potentially from a single tweet starting a history making change.

How ‘electable’ is Jacinda Ardern?

There have been many claims and assertions by media about how Jacinda Ardern will enhance Labour’s election chances.

Media either:

  • precipitated the retirement announcement of Annette King and the promotion of Jacinda Ardern as King’s replacement as Labour’s deputy leader
  • executed the promotion of Ardern (and demotion of King) as tools of either camp Ardern or camp Labour.

Either way (some) media were willing political activists rather than journalists. This isn’t good for democracy in New Zealand.

And this quickly escalated into promoting Ardern as leader of Labour – see Media coup of Labour leadership.

Tim Murphy is “Reporter, Editor – . ‘If you chase two rabbits, you will catch neither’ – Russian proverb”. Yesterday he tweeted, and I responded:

I presume Murphy had his opinion hat on when he tweeted that, and not his reporter or editor hats.I note that ‘facile’ means “ignoring the true complexities of an issue; superficial”.

How ‘electable’ is Ardern? The future is unknown, but the past doesn’t back up Murphy’s facile assertion.

  • She lost the safe National electorate, Waikato, by about 13,000 votes but got into Parliament via a remarkably high list placement (20) for a new candidate.
  • She moved to Auckland Central in 2011 and lost what had been a long time Labour seat up until 2008 to Nikki Kay by 717 votes, despite what looks like thousands of Green party votes shifting to her in the electorate vote.
  • In 2014 she lost in Auckland Central again to Kaye, this time by 600 votes. She was also helped substantially by Green tactical voting.
  • She stood as Grant Robertson’s deputy in Labour’s leadership contest in October 2014. They lost.
  • She moved to Mt Albert, one of Labour’s safest seats, for the 2017 by-election and won easily but with no National opponent and with favourable media coverage, and she got about half the voles David Shearer had got in the 2014 election and several thousand fewer than Shearer got in the 2009 by-election.

So apart from being gifted high list placings and being gifted a safe Labour electorate last month Ardern doesn’t have a record of electability.

Ardern is likely to win again easily in Mt Albert in this year’s general election but that is not due to her particular electability – Andrew Little could also probably win a safe Labour seat like that easily if he chose to stand.

But Ardern is now being promoted as enhancing the electability of Labour. Under MMP the party vote is all important.

How has she helped Labour in the past? Not a lot by the look of party voting in Auckland Central:

  • 2008 – Labour 34.55%, Greens 15.47%
  • 2011 – Labour 25.11%, Greens 22.79%
  • 2014 – Labour 21.67%, Greens 22.17%

Greens had the same candidate in all three of those elections, Denise Roche.

Look at the number of party votes for Labour in Auckland Central:

  • 2008 (Tizard) 12,166
  • 2011 (Ardern) 8,590
  • 2014 (Ardern) 6,101

So Labour’s party vote has halved since Ardern stood in Auckland Central.

Her history of enhancing Labour’s electability doesn’t look good.

Of course things are different now. Ardern is in her ninth year in Parliament, under her fifth leader. She has worked on her public profile. Perhaps she can enhance Andrew Little’s electability. That appears to be the plan, and what media have taken to promoting.

One thing that Ardern has succeeded at is getting media on her side. They (quite a few journalists) are giving her a lot of help. Like Murphy.

As many have pointed out, this promotion of Ardern without any history of electoral success to support it, has risks for Labour.

The voters may not share the same enthusiasm as some journalists for Ardern’s as yet unfulfilled potential (although the media promotion of Ardern as a celebrity politician is likely to have some effect).

Deputy leaders are generally virtually ignored in elections – all the attention is given to the leaders. Of course the media are indicating that this may change with Ardern because they seem to have given up on Little already.

Another problem is also apparent – if Ardern continues to be promoted as Labour’s next leader this could get chaotic in an election campaign.

Would Labour bow to media pressure and dump Little before the election? That is more likely to be disastrous rather than strategic genius.

If Ardern is made more popular than Little this could get very awkward for Labour and  could reduce the party’s electability. Voters may choose to wait until Little’s Labour loses, expecting that that will result in his dumping in favour of Ardern.

Of course the media may not care about how unelectable Labour might become.

Their obsession with personalities and with celebrity politics, and their drive to put news website clicks ahead of fair and sensible democratic processes may dominate their coverage of Ardern and Labour this election.

There were already signs last year that some media and pundits were writing off Labour’s chances under Little’s leadership.

This seems to be a factor in the media moves towards celebrity politics. Ardern may benefit, but democracy will suffer – especially if the end result is Labour crashing this election.

Ardern may remain ‘electable’ in the safe Mt Albert electorate, but Labour are at real risk here.

Politics and government dominated by one party is not good for democracy, nor is it good for the country – and it won’t be good for political media either, because the likely result is further loss of public interest in politics.

Premature announcement – Newsroom

Tim Murphy and Mark Jennings had already  indicated they were working on a new media venture, but now more details have emerged so they have gone with a premature announcement.

StopPress: ‘Well, that’s one way to announce your arrival’

Newsroom, a new independent and high quality news and current affairs website we are launching soon, made its public debut yesterday via the grand and important forum of the website of the New Zealand Commerce Commission.

News of the venture that Mark Jennings, ex head of news and current affairs at TV3, and I are forming was included in documents lodged with the Commission by the two applicants for #StuffMe, Fairfax and NZME, to support their argument that their merger won’t harm plurality of journalistic voices.

To use the old tabloid ‘screamer’ headline: ‘It’s Official!’

Newsroom.co.nz is our planned site and brand. We’ve gathered some top editors, digital journalists and video experts and we have what we think is a sustainable and high-appeal answer to filling a gap in the journalism market for Real News. Internally, we’re calling our content target the ‘Things that Matter’.

It will use fresh digital and social media approaches – will be optimised for mobile consumers – and be classy, calm and contemporary. Newsroom will feature video news and current affairs prominently and cleverly.

It will be targeted at an audience that in broad terms we’ve defined as New Zealanders who care. News hounds. People who vote. People aware of the needs of good journalism in a democracy like ours.

There have been many calls for better journalism in contrast to the tabloidisation of the ‘mainstream media’, which in a reaction to diving advertising revenue have moved towards trivial clickbait based headlines.

Time will tell whether there is a market for it.

Our plan is actually two plans: a direct specialist news service for paying subscribers called Newsroom Pro, and an open public site for quality journalism called Newsroom.co.nz which will be funded by four to five revenue streams including corporate sponsors as founding supporters.

So it will partly be free, partly subscription. Fair enough. But how many people are prepared to pay for more and better news?

There are already subscription news and political commentary services available, such as NBR, Politik and Trans Tasman. So far I have resisted paying for any of them. For me there’s just not enough extra to justify the cost.

We are working with the outstanding journalist and digital news activist Bernard Hickey to add his separately successful Hivenews.co.nz daily feed of economics and political news to the Newsroom Pro offering. Then we will add three or four more experienced journalists and additional subject areas to provide a comprehensive paid content offering.

Newsroom Pro will cover Economics and trade, Politics and policy, Environment and Sustainability, Energy and Technology when it is launched in February when the business and political world returns to work.

Newsroom aims to fill an unmet need for an independent, scalable and substantial provider of news and analysis on the things that matter to New Zealanders.

The subscription service is one half of that plan. Those who are prepared to pay for the private benefit of expert news will also be supporting the other half, the public good of an open, free and general interest news website.

Our focus will be on news.

I think that there is more of a lack of in depth investigation.

We will be rigorous in weeding out fake news.

As any reputable news outlet should be – it’s good to know they won’t make stuff up  or repeat overseas crap but it shouldn’t have to be said, it should just be.

New Zealanders want quality, real news and analysis. It need not and will not be dull. Experienced and high-profile journalists will work to put things in context, but in an appealing, interpretative style.

Some New Zealanders. Enough to want to pay for it? The big question.

We identified 33 subject areas we believe the major media players have been forced to withdraw from covering in any detail or depth because of the cuts to staffing and capability forced on them by digital disruption taking away their advertising dollars and readers.

We’ve narrowed that to about nine to ten main areas of things that matter – subjects we think New Zealanders want to see examined fairly and calmly and in depth.

We will work with the peerless international news agency, the Associated Press, and other partners to bring global issues that matter to a New Zealand audience.

Newsroom.co.nz’s journalism will be independent – politically non-partisan, not part of the big four of Fairfax, NZME, Mediaworks or TVNZ, and with editorial independence resting solely with the co-editors.  We’ll have an advisory board to keep us to our task.

Our audience work has helped us define who we think will read and watch us. We aim to serve those aged 25 plus (and not stopping in their mid 50s) who care enough to vote, read, debate and share serious views and news.

Odd to specify an age range and virtually rule out young people who are leading the transformation of how we view news.

“Who care enough to vote, read, debate and share serious views and news” – a shrinking market?

We’re an alternative.  Focused on news.

We want to add to all of their work by creating a sustainable twin-pillar model for quality and independent New Zealand news. And to provide them some competition along the way.

But we’re going to give it a go in the quality news market.  There has been wonderful, unprompted, support from people way beyond the journalism or media bubble who think there is a need…. and want Newsroom to succeed.

Good to see them have a go. I wish them well and hope they succeed. When I see how much they charge for a subscription – will they aim for mass market or go elite/expensive? – I’ll consider supporting Newsroom with my money.

Journalists or political activists?

This wee exchange on Twitter is a bit concerning.

O’Donnell is host of  on MSNBC.

Retweeted by Tim Murphy (New Zealand journalist):

Brian Stelter Retweeted Lawrence O’Donnell

Addendum to this: Journalists will be asked, and will ask themselves, “Are you proud of the way you covered Trump?”

Stelter is CNN’s host of and senior media correspondent. Formerly , and Top of the Morning

I’m not a fan of Trump at all and have serious concerns about what him as US President would mean to the world.

But the implication I get from this is that journalists should be actively trying to influence the presidential election. That also seriously concerns me.

At least Trump is getting democratic support and will be chosen (or not) by democratic vote.

Journalists should be giving unbiased accounts of the democratic process, and they should not be trying to manipulate and influence it in one direction.

If journalists want to be proud of defeating Trump they should become political activists and stop pretending to be journalists.

Or are the admitting the created a Trump monster through biased favourable coverage that enabled Trump’s rise?

Major media problems looming for Key’s Government

The shoddy Henry inquiry and the access of journalist and MP data is growing into a major problem for John Key’s government, at a very awkward time. This has significant implications for Keyu’s GCSB bill.

Call for Speaker to act as watchdog on reporters’ records

Fairfax Media’s political editor says decisions on Press Gallery journalists’ private information need to be made only by Parliament’s Speaker, not low-level bureaucrats.

The political editor at Fairfax Media, Tracy Watkins, says the release puts Press Gallery reporters’ confidence in their own privacy at risk and the handling of their information needs to be better managed.

“It really cuts to the heart of our ability to operate around Parliament and talk to MPs and bureaucrats as well and be confident that that’s not going to be somehow tracked for the purposes of finding out who our sources are,” she told Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report programme.

Ms Watkins says there must be firm protocols and clear understanding that decisions no records are made at a level lower than the Speaker.

“If for instance we were asked would we ever hand over details that might in any way compromise a source, we would never do that. So we need a watchdog in place to make sure our rights are protected, and that needs to be the Speaker, ultimately.”

The chair of the Parliamentary Press Gallery, Clare Trevett, says the ability of journalists to do their job should be sacrosanct and says she was shocked that the phone records were released.

Media Freedom Committee chair Tim Murphy says the wider issue in the release of phone records to the ministerial inquiry is that different arms of the state seem to think they can get information any way they wish. He says the fact a contractor decided to pass along the records, which were not requested, defies rational belief.

John Key needs to address this quickly and thoroughly, or things could turn from incredulous to sour, on tnhis issue and with the media in general.

But Prime Minister John Key says the Government has enormous respect for the fourth estate. He says he doesn’t think journalists should be subject to surveillance, and they are not.

Then he needs to demonstarate that respect by taking decisive action on addressing this. Sureveillance data has been used and with the rapidly changing excuses there is a serious lack of credibilility and major doubrs about how much data has been accessed and passed on – and to whom?

And it will make the passage of his GCSB bill much more difficult.