New Zealand Media Council Statement of Principles

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The New Zealand Media Council is a non-governmental organisation that guides the media standards in NZ and promotes the freedom of speech. It handles complaints about the editorial content of any publication circulating in New Zealand, and publishes rulings on those complaints here

The scope of the council’s authority extends to material published in newspapers, magazines and their websites, including audio and video streams, as well as digital sites with news content, or blogs characterised by their new commentary. This also includes online content of “TVNZ, MediaWorks, Sky Network Television, Maori Television, NZME Radio and Radio New Zealand”.

The council’s Statement of Principles provides the grounds complainants can use to describe and justify the “core of their complaint”, and that adjudicators use in making decisions about complaints.

How it is structured

The preamble states that the main objective of the Media Council is to “provide the public with an independent forum for resolving complaints involving the newspapers, magazines and the websites of such publications and other digital media”.

It also describes the role of an independent press and freedom of expression in a functioning democracy, and states that the council will primarily consider this when dealing with complaints. Additionally, it explicitly states that the Media Council endorses the Treaty of Waitangi and the Bill of Rights Act.

The Statement of Principles

  • Accuracy, Fairness and Balance: Publications should be bound by accuracy, fairness and balance and should not seek to deliberately mislead or misinform readers. 
  • Privacy: Every person is entitled to privacy of person, space and information except when matters concern public record or interest. They specifically advice against “identifying relatives of persons convicted or accused of crime where the reference to them is not relevant to the matter reported”.
  • Children and Young People: stories including children and young people must demonstrate an “exceptional degree of public interest” to override the young persons interest.
  • Comment and Fact: Clear distinction must be given between fact and comment or opinion, and facts on which opinions are based on should be accurate.
  • Columns, Blogs, Opinion and Letters: Opinion must be clearly identified as such, unless the blog or column is widely understood to consist of opinion. 
  • Headlines and Captions: must “accurately and fairly convey the substance or a key element of the report they are designed to cover”.
  • Discrimination and Diversity: Publications should not place “gratuitous emphasis” on categories such as gender, religion, minority groups, sexual orientation, age, race, colour or physical or mental disability, unless they are relevant to areas of public interest.
  • Confidentiality: Publications must take strong steps to protect the identity of confidential sources, whilst also satisfying themselves that their sources are well informed and understanding what is on and off the record.
  • Subterfuge: Unless there is public interest or the news cannot be obtained through other means, subterfuge is not permitted.
  • Conflicts of Interest: Where a story is enabled by conflict of interest, such interest must be declared. Publications must be free of obligations to their news sources.
  • Photographs and Graphics: Any manipulation to images must be noted and explained, and any images showing dpotentially shocking situations should be handled with exceptional consideration.
  • Corrections: Corrections to errors diffuses complaints and enhances credibility of publications and should be regularly used in circumstances appropriate

For more information, including a list of the news organisations that have agreed to abide by these principles, see the Media Council website here: