NZ Media Council upholds complaint on accuracy

  • 08/03/2024
NZ Media Council upholds complaint on accuracy

The complaint arose from a Newshub story which featured comments by former Prime Minister Dame Jacinda Ardern on the Israeli/Hamas conflict and also covered the Israeli raid on Al Shifa hospital in Gaza.

The story quoted the UN saying Israel had turned “hospitals into graveyards”. The story stated that Al Shifa hospital has been under constant attack from Israeli forces and the UN Secretary General had called for an immediate ceasefire.

Simon Smelt complained the story’s coverage of the attack on the Al Shifa hospital lacked balance as there was no mention of the Israeli position. He also said the placement of Ms Ardern’s comments gave the impression they were in some way linked to the Al Shifa hospital attack.

In a second, subsequent communication about his complaint on 28 November 2023, Dr Smelt pointed out Newshub had incorrectly attributed the ‘graveyard’ comment to the UN instead of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) which had said the lack of electric power was turning hospitals into graveyards. It did not refer to any bombardment.

In response, Newshub said the information about attacks on Al Shifa hospital was to provide context for Ms Ardern’s comments and this was a long running issue where balance can be judged over a number of stories. Newshub said at the time of publication there were two similar quotes by the UN and the ICRC which were widely reported. It acknowledged that the story incorrectly attributed the quote to the UN and said had it been aware of the error earlier, it would have corrected it sooner. Newshub say it misunderstood Dr Smelt’s second email drawing its attention to the errors and therefore did not act immediately to correct them.

The Media Council decided that the misattribution of the quote and the failure to mention the lack of electricity were serious inaccuracies that were not corrected promptly. While the story was corrected on both main points once the errors were recognised, there was a long delay between 28 November 2023, when Dr Smelt brought them to Newshub’s attention, to their correction on 31 January 2024.

The complaint is upheld on inaccuracy and lack of prompt correction. The full Media Council ruling can be found here: Media Council - SIMON SMELT AGAINST NEWSHUB