Peter Ellis Appeal: Does reputation extend beyond the grave?

Should the restoration of Peter Ellis’ reputation from beyond the grave have publishers worried and defamation lawyers rubbing their hands in anticipation that a basic tenet of the law had been overturned by Tikanga Māori?

Well, not yet. As things stand, only living people can be defamed, and your reputation dies with you. However, could we be feeling the first winds of change?

Certainly, the New Zealand Herald’s senior political correspondent Audrey Young believes the Supreme Court has opened Pandora’s box. In a highly critical commentary yesterday she accused the Supreme Court of “judicial activism with a capital A” and described the court’s use of tikanga as “audacious”.

She claims the court is rewriting the law on tikanga and pre-empting a Law Commission study, requested by the government, on the role of tikanga in common law (also known as case law or judicial precedent).

Peter Ellis, who was no relation, had his convictions for child molestation at Christchurch’s Civic Creche quashed by the Supreme Court last week. He had died in 2019.

In the 152-page judgement that overturned the case against him, there is no mention of tikanga or his reputation. The findings are limited to the conduct of the case against Ellis and the various appeals that followed his conviction. The judgement is based solely on established legal principles.

Young’s criticism related, in fact, to an earlier decision by the court to allow Ellis’ appeal to continue after his death, in part because a majority of the court accepted that Tikanga Māori should be woven into the fabric of our justice system. Tikanga includes an enduring place for mana that transcends death. Reputation may be seen as a simplified definition of mana. Continue reading “Peter Ellis Appeal: Does reputation extend beyond the grave?”

Government media teams that breach the law

The Ombudsman, Peter Boshier, has given government agency media teams a well-deserved kick up the fundamental over some of their dealings with journalists.

Last week he released his report Ready or not? Thematic OIA compliance and practice in 2022. It is highly critical of the way the teams handle some media requests for information. Incredibly, many did not see such requests as falling under the Official Information Act.

The 66-page report revisits 12 Government agencies that were investigated by his predecessor in 2015 and it picks out media teams for particular scrutiny.

Most of the agencies I investigated have a Media Team responsible for handling information requests from the news media. These Media Teams operate separately from centralised OIA Teams, which typically process information requests from the public. While separating requests in this way is not unreasonable in itself, I am concerned that some of the practices associated with this method of request handling has helped to create a false perception that media requests are not OIA requests and, as a result, that agencies do not need to adhere to OIA obligations when handling them.”

The Ombudsman’s report states unequivocally that media information requests are OIA requests, with the core legislative obligations that those confer.

As one might expect, there were examples of excellent service provided by media teams. He singled out the Ministry of Health Manatū Hauora and the Public Service Commission Te Kawa Mataaho. The former was praised for its information handling during the pandemic, while the latter’s performance should be a given – it is the lead agency on implementation of the Government’s commitments under the international Open Government Partnership.

However, he didn’t mince words over some of the actions of media teams: “In most of the agencies I investigated, I saw evidence of breaches of the law.” Continue reading “Government media teams that breach the law”

“A bill that relies — for necessary protections — on the goodwill of government is not good law”

Today the deputy director of Koi Tū The Centre for Informed Futures, Dr Anne Bardsley, and I made oral submissions to the Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee on the Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media Bill.
I am an affiliate of the Auckland University think tank and, with its director, Sir Peter Gluckman, co-signed a major written submission that received positive comments from select committee members.

Here are links to the submission and the video of the hearing (our oral submission starts at 1:54:00).

The written submission:

The video:

What am I bid for fine photojournalism?

Rob Tucker and a few of his old mates thought they would flog off a few pictures to raise a few dollars for a good cause.

To be honest, it was more than a few pictures and last Saturday it raised more than a few dollars. The Photojournalism Auction in New Plymouth featured 122 of New Zealand’s most iconic press photographs and it raised almost $200,000. The beneficiary is Hospice Taranaki, which has provided Rob Tucker with comfort and care as he deals with terminal cancer.

The auction was Rob’s way of saying thank you to the hospice, and fellow photojournalists like Ross Land rallied to help as a thank you to Rob for a lifetime contribution to photojournalism and to mateship.

I have known Rob and his journalist brother Jim throughout much of my working life so I’m not going to say much more about the auction than what I said to my two friends on Sunday. Jim and I agreed it was a “bloody fantastic effort” and when Rob and I were talking about the brotherhood (and sisterhood) of journalism, I told him I was “proud to call him brother.”

Today, I want to concentrate on what the auction told us. Not just about the generosity that was there in abundance, but about photojournalism and the enduring qualities of a photographic print. Continue reading “What am I bid for fine photojournalism?”