RNZ's edit scandal widens as evidence emerges of Israel-Palestine, China, transgender stories altered

Radio New Zealand has widened the scope of its investigation into the editing of news stories to include topics outside of the Ukraine war.

The state broadcaster launched a review after it emerged last week that text of a Reuters story about Russia's invasion of Ukraine published on RNZ had been altered to include a pro-Russian sentiment.

RNZ has found more than a dozen stories taken from wire services relating to the war in Ukraine that have been edited on its website.

The RNZ journalist who allegedly inserted the pro-Russian sentiment into news stories has been placed on leave.

It was only on Monday that RNZ editor-in-chief Paul Thompson said the audit hadn't yet found examples of "inappropriate edits" outside of Ukraine-Russia stories. But changes to stories outside of this have now been found, including edits that appear to be sympathetic towards Palestine and the militant group Hamas, and China's abuses in Xinjiang and its treatment of Uighurs. 

ACT leader David Seymour called for an independent inquiry into RNZ after revelations these stories were edited to provide "Palestinian and Chinese-friendly framing".

"For our state broadcaster to publish material that included Russian, Palestinian and Chinese propaganda is appalling. New Zealanders should be able to trust our state broadcaster to be totally and utterly impartial," Seymour said in a statement on Tuesday.

"This reflects badly on RNZ, but it will also have an effect on media overall. New Zealanders' trust in the media has been steadily declining over many years, and this episode will undermine that trust further."

In another story on British Cycling banning transgender women from the female category of its competitions, the version on RNZ's website contained significant edits, including the removal of entire sections.

The RNZ version is on the left in red, and the original BBC version is in green on the right.
The RNZ version is on the left in red, and the original BBC version is in green on the right. Photo credit: Diffchecker screenshot
A paragraph from the original BBC version that isn't in RNZ's copy.
A paragraph from the original BBC version that isn't in RNZ's copy. Photo credit: Diffchecker screenshot

However, it remains unclear if this was edited to add bias and RNZ's investigations continue.

When approached for comment, RNZ didn't answer Newshub's questions on whether all stories mentioned above are part of those that had been "inappropriately edited" by the journalist.

Spokesperson John Barr told Newshub the content audit is going through a "large number" of stories edited by the employee.

"This is ongoing, wide-ranging and thorough and we will continue to update any new findings on this page as information comes to hand," he said in a statement.

More than 300 stories have been reviewed so far, and he understands only one employee is behind the edits.

"The external review will be led by the Board who will decide the terms of reference for that review, the areas to be covered and the external experts involved," Barr said.

"This information will be confirmed as soon as possible and will be made public - as will the outcome of the review."

RNZ is self-publishing a list of stories it has edited as part of this audit. So far, 22 stories on its website have been found to be edited.

Note: This article was edited on Friday June 16 as Newshub continues to investigate RNZ's editing policies. RNZ continues to update its list here.

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