Pacific Scoop

Media 7 panel criticises BSA over ‘guns and drugs’ ruling

'News organizations are finding it hard to report Pacific issues and hold regional governments to account in the face of increasing media censorship and repression' - TVNZ's Media7.

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Pacific Media Watch.

Commentators on the Media 7 show (Barbara Dreaver, Tim Pankhurst, and Dr David Robie) last night criticised the Broadcasting Standards Authority ruling against a controversial Television New Zealand programme about gangs, guns and drugs, saying the BSA had “got it wrong”.

Tim Pankhurst, chief executive of the Newspapers Publishing Association and chairman of the Commonwealth Press Union’s Media Freedom Committee, said the Samoan government had hired expensive lawyers to “pursue and bully” the complaint to defend its tourism industry.

Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver reported on criminal gangs, drugs and weapon smuggling in Samoa in reports broadcast on One News on 6 April 2009 and also on Tagata Pasifika.

The Samoan Attorney-General’s Office filed a complaint over the balance, accuracy and fairness broadcasting standards and this was upheld by the BSA last month, but a complaint over law and order was not upheld.

Costs were awarded against TVNZ of $5000 for the Samoan government and $2000 for the Crown.

Following a bank holdup by masked gunmen in Apia last week, the Samoa Observer yesterday published an editorial saying Samoans should now “breathe a sigh of relief” over the TVNZ issue.

    “But how ironic. Here we are demanding an apology for a story about guns and drugs and yet in Samoa today, we’ve got a serious problem with the wide availability of firearms. Drugs – marijuana especially – [have] been a problem for a long time.

    “Just last week, masked men – which reminded us of the masked men in Dreaver’s story – walked into Westpac Bank and held staff members there at gunpoint. They demanded the money and off they went with some $240,000.” (Click here for the full article.)

Asked by Media 7 host Russell Brown for his response to the BSA ruling, former Dominion Post editor tim Pankhurst said: “You have to roll with these [decisions] but I think the [BSA] got it wrong.

“It is hugely relevant that [the complaint] was brought by the government and they were prepared to go to the extent of hiring very expensive lawyers here in Auckland to pursue and bully this case.

“I assume the motive was to protect the tourism industry.”

Another panellist, Pacific Media Centre director associate professor David Robie, said governments using the regulatory bodies to curb media freedom are “a bit of a worrying trend in the Pacific although two examples yet don’t make a pattern”.

He was also referring to an earlier complaint by the Fiji government upheld by the BSA against Fairfax journalist Michael Field.

“But I do want to say something about Barbara’s case,” Dr Robie said.

“I was at a media freedom conference in Samoa last year not long after the controversy blew up and I remember Barbara being attacked – in her absence – by several Samoan journalists and I actually spoke out strongly in her support.

“One of the very worrying things about the whole episode is how a number of journalists singled her out and who seemed to have become propagandists for the Samoan government overnight.

“Essentially here was a vendetta and I wrote about this in my blog Cafe Pacific.”

“Like Tim, I also thought the BSA had got it wrong.”

Dr Robie said the BSA should have considered the “big picture” about the government complaint and made balancing comments about the conduct of some sections of the Samoan media and the vendetta.

Asked by host Russell Brown what her response was, Dreaver replied: “Obviously I am personally unhappy with the BSA decision but I totally stand by my story, and so does TVNZ.

“At the end of the day, with a BSA decision, win or lose, it does not affect how I do my job.

“It is not the first time I have upset a government and it won’t be the last. I am just going to keep doing my job.”

Television NZ spokesperson Megan Richards told Pacific Media Watch it had decided not to continue with an appeal in spite of standing by the story because of high legal costs involved and “it’s a bit of a lottery”.

A statement would be carried by the public broadcaster under the terms of the BSA ruling.


Source: 6803 Pacific Media Watch


  1. terry, 16. April 2010, 17:13

    barbara did not upset a govt, she upset a people..govt was acting on complaints pressure from the public..even the Parliament Opposition pushed to have her banned from the country.but she’s welcome to samoa anytime…the bsa upheld complaints against shonky bs journalism..yea, most of us samoan journalists did not agree with barbara, incl. that fella whose editorial you just a problem with that dave? you just repeated why the bsa upheld the samoa’s complaint, using isolated incidents to make dumb sweeping generalisations…

  2. Josephine Latu, 18. April 2010, 16:30

    I have the greatest respect for the panellists on this program, but it would’ve meant so much if there was a rep from the Pacific community – whether from Fiji or Samoa or any of the communities you were discussing…. Hellooo – if you’re going to talk about us on TV, please have one of us there 🙂 Maybe Media 7 can make this a rule of thumb when you cover Pacific issues.

    Personally I agree with the BSA decision, but I respect David’s and Barbara’s views, and admire their experience in the region.

    However, I don’t think that “Samoan journalists became overnight propagandists for the government” nor that the complaint was a “propaganda exercise” by the Samoan government, as David said.

    Those reporters were not acting for “government”, but rather the community that was portrayed, with whom they identified as a people.

    I think the BSA made a thorough decision (remember, not all elements of Samoa’s complaints were upheld). The message was not to stop reporting on controversial issues – just stop reporting for the sake of ratings, entertainment and shock, because it leads to onesidedness. It would be great to see less of this.

    But the nasty personal attacks on the Barbara- come on, the lady was just doing her job for TVNZ. In fact, I think as a person, she actually does have a genuine concern for Pacific peoples.

  3. Tasi, 19. April 2010, 11:39

    I have no experience in the editorial side of a televised news item, but it must be said, at least on the technical presentation, that the news item was portrayed in a way that exaggerated the substance of the news item. Words along the lines of “Breaking news” or “Exclusive” during the news hour the day before, and leading up to, the news item being aired, sensationalised the item from the beginning. This surely points to ratings and motives for profit. Whether Barbara had anything to do with the presentational aspects of news item, I’m not sure, but would hazard to guess she would have had some sort of input. So even before looking at the substance of the news item, the presentation of it had already got people upset.