Journalists reject Deputy PM’s comments about the media

In light of the Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters’ recent comments about the media, a group of journalists who serve as E tū delegates say these claims are misinformed.

Mr Peters has claimed the Public Interest Journalism Fund was a government “bribe” – which is a well-known but incorrect claim made amongst those who peddle conspiracy theories. He has further doubled down on that by saying he is at “war” with the media. We strongly reject claims of a bribe.

Journalism was just one of many industries that got government help as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. There was never any expectation tied to the Public Interest Journalism funding to cover any one topic, or in any one way, and there were clear and well-publicised conditions for the work produced.

While journalists strongly reject Mr Peters’ claims, we will all continue to cover him, New Zealand First, and all parties in an unbiased way. The media has an important role to play in a democracy, holding politicians to account and acting as a watchdog for the community. 

Journalists at the front line doing their job have faced strong and sometimes unusual pressures recently from people acting on strong views, to limit reporting or the how stories are told.

By spreading misinformation and supporting conspiracy theories, Mr Peters is placing journalists at risk. We urge Mr Peters, as well as other senior politicians and public figures, to support and protect our independent media, not attack it. 

The Post and Stuff delegate Tom Hunt said it was ludicrous to label PIJF a bribe.

“Many of the PIJF journalists were also union members and were bound by E tū’s journalistic ethics, which enshrines editorial independence from outside influence.  

“The Media Council also has principles saying publications should be ‘bound at all times by accuracy, fairness and balance’. Furthermore, media companies have their own standards which enshrine independence. 

“Taking aim at these journalists who are now, or will soon, be facing the end of PIJF funding is a cynical cheap shot.” 

RNZ delegate Phil Pennington said RNZ journalists strive every day to meet the demands of their stringent editorial standards, standards shared with many other media organisations.

“Our journalists’ daily work helps support and protect an environment of free debate and wide-ranging input, and we hope and trust all our political leaders’ efforts do, too.”

Another experienced journalist told E tū that Winston Peters’ attack on the media was reminiscent of how Sir Robert Muldoon behaved. He attacked unionists and journalists, infamously refusing to allow journalist and cartoonist Tom Scott to attend press conferences.