Press Council: Ruling part-upheld

The League did not mention Piri Weepu or comment on his fathering skills. Photo / Supplied
The League did not mention Piri Weepu or comment on his fathering skills. Photo / Supplied

The New Zealand Press Council has partly upheld a La Leche League NZ complaint that the Herald on Sunday inaccurately reported its position in the removal of a clip showing All Black Piri Weepu bottle-feeding his daughter in a smoke-free homes advertisement.

The full decision is at www.presscouncil.org.nz. A complaint by the league against the New Zealand Herald on the same topic was also partially upheld but was considered separately.

The complaint followed a move by the Health Sponsorship Council to send to the La Leche League the advertisement commissioned by the HSC prior to it airing.

La Leche had recommended to the HSC that the small bottle-feeding clip be removed so as not to cut across the work of the Ministry of Health's national breastfeeding education campaign.

The league did not mention Piri Weepu or comment on his fathering skills.

The Herald on Sunday reported on February 5, 2012, how images of the All Black bottle-feeding his baby had been cut after protests from "breast-feeding crusaders" and quoted a HSC representative as saying people associated with the league had started an email campaign against the advertisement, among other things.

The issue attracted a high level of media coverage. Between that date and February 19, 23 articles or items were published, 10 in the Herald on Sunday and 13 in the New Zealand Herald.

The Press Council noted most of the articles were opinion pieces and sat well within the limits of freedom of expression. La Leche League had also noted this in relation to some of the columns.

However, a front-page headline promoting the p8 story on February 5, "Piri's Bottle Ban- All Black dad warned: Breast is best", was found to be inaccurate.

The Press Council noted the word ban usually means forbidden and that was too strong a meaning for what transpired. Nor was there a strong case for saying that Piri Weepu had been "warned that breast is best." Similarly, the headline over the story itself was not justified in using the word ban.

The newspaper had reported that hundreds of emails had been sent in the campaign initiated by La Leche League. Both parties accepted there were 67. The council found that the error in number was later rectified. The league had also disputed it was behind the campaign. However, the Press Council found that it was a reasonable assumption on the part of the newspaper because the campaign organiser was listed on the La Leche website.

The Press Council also found a February 12 article, "Natural-born kill joys", while largely a justifiable feature, breached the Press Council principle relating to the separation of comment and fact. It was unfair to the league because it misrepresented its position when it reported: "For the La Leche League, it will confirm all its worst fears. It shows a gorgeous, healthy baby girl in the embrace of a loving dad. To La Leche, this image glorifies bottlefeeding."

The council does not believe the newspaper was justified in using the word censorship. The league made a suggestion to the HSC, the sponsorship council considered it and removed the clip. This is not censorship.

On these grounds, the complaint was partly upheld.

Other complaints about articles, columns, editorials and letters were not upheld.

- Herald on Sunday

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