Complaint upheld by Press Council
In November 2014 Kapi-Mana News published an article about the complainant’s brother and his dispute with her and other members of their family over the administration of their mother’s estate.
There had been extensive litigation over a number of years and the article reported that the brother had ‘‘ not seen a cent of his share of the estate’’ and had recently lodged an application for leave with the Privy Council.
The complaint was that the article was inaccurate, unfair and unbalanced and that the apologies and correction offered by the publication were inadequate.
In particular the brother said he ‘‘ had not seen a cent of his share of the estate’’ when he had been paid his share in full.
The proposed appeal to the Privy Council was on a costs award of $2000 and below the threshold for such appeals.
It was not on the substantive dispute.
In 2009 the same reporter had written, and Kapi-Mana News had published, an article about the dispute’s earlier stages.
At that time the complainant complained about imbalance and inaccuracies and appears to have received an apology and an acknowledgement that there were inaccuracies.
On receiving the initial complaint [in the latest case], the editor acknowledged one error of fact and apologised verbally.
He later sent a draft letter of apology from the reporter.
However the complainant con- sidered this apology incomplete and inadequate, given the previous history with the same reporter.
On December 9, 2014, KapiMana News published a correction and apology, addressed to the executors of the estate.
It had previously been sent to the complainant, who found it inadequate, but there had been no response to her request for amendments.
In the view of the Press Council, and indeed as accepted by all parties to the complaint, the article published by Kapi-Mana News was unbalanced and contained at least one inaccuracy.
It was in breach of Press Council Principle 1.
All parties are agreed that, particularly in view of his knowledge of the history, the reporter should have contacted the complainant and/or her family to obtain their side of the story and to check for accuracy.
If he had done so, he would have been fully informed and in a position to write a more balanced article.
The reporter should also have checked the court records that are public documents.
It was inaccurate for the brother to say that he ‘‘ had not seen a cent of his share of the estate’’ when there is clear evidence that he was paid his share.
However, and more importantly, the implication of the article is that he was seeking leave to appeal to the Privy Council against a decision about the merits of his claim against the estate.
In fact leave is sought to appeal only against a 2003 decision of the Court of Appeal awarding costs of $2000 against him.
In addition, the article does not mention that the Court of Appeal had already denied him leave to appeal to the Privy Council.
These inaccuracies make the potential appeal appear much more substantial than it is and have not been corrected.
The Press Council finds that the original article was in breach of Principle 1 and while acknowledging that efforts have been made to provide a remedy, also finds that the correction printed on 9 December was inadequate.
To that extent the complaint is upheld.
The full Press Council decision is available at presscouncil.org.nz