The Media Council has upheld in part a complaint by Eddie Clark against the New Zealand Herald about a column by Rachel Stewart.
Ms Stewart had written, in forthright and colloquial language, opposing a proposed legislative change to permit individuals to change the details of their sex as registered at birth, and specifically objecting to the term TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) to describe her stance on the issue. She also said that American transgender groups were funded by Warren Buffett and George Soros and continued "Why? Because investors want to help normalise the altering of basic human biology, and Big Pharma stands to make a fortune. It's already started."
The complaint was of discrimination and of inaccuracy. The Media Council did not uphold the complaint of discrimination, finding that it is the function of free media in a democratic country to provide a platform for the expression of views reflecting strongly held convictions and for the debate about them, even if some of those views are expressed in a way that is offensive, disrespectful, or extreme by many people's standards.
The passages to which the complainant objected were relevant to the discussion of transgender rights and to issues that the proposed legislation will have to address. They did not amount to gratuitous emphasis.
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However, there must be a clear distinction between factual information and comment or opinion, and the material facts on which an opinion is based should be accurate. Neither Ms Stewart nor the New Zealand Herald offered any evidence in support of the idea that major pharmaceutical companies and those who invest in them have a commercial interest in helping "normalise the altering of basic human biology" and in particular they offered no evidence that "It's already started".
While it could be possible to dismiss part of the passage as offering a theory about the motives of pharmaceutical companies and their investors, the last three words could only be taken as a statement of fact, for which no evidence whatsoever was offered. There may well be a great deal of information online and elsewhere, but much of it is dubious and unreliable. Readers should be able to rely on mainstream media for accuracy.
The complaint of inaccuracy was upheld.
The full decision can be read here.