15 Nov 2017

Academic says bias in coverage of Tongan league fans

11:05 am on 15 November 2017

An Auckland academic says he has seen an extraordinary race-based bias in the coverage of Pacific fans at the Rugby League World Cup.

Tongan league fans show their support.

Tongan league fans show their support. Photo: NRL Photos

In the build up to Tonga's game against Samoa there were a number of skirmishes on the streets of South Auckland, while after their historic first victory over New Zealand, hundreds of fans flooded the same streets.

Fifty-three arrests were made in Otahuhu that night, after what police described as "mass disorder".

But Auckland University of Technology's Richard Pamatatau said there was an over-reporting of some of the incidents that had happened and a particular framing that differs from other incidents like the setting of dozens of fires by hundreds of Dunedin students after the All Black's successive Rugby World Cup victories.

Mr Pamatatau said the latest reporting had become an opportunity for people to open the gates to all their racist ideas.

"I've read comments about Tongans and Samoans coming down from trees like apes. That's where journalists need to think about their responsibility in being part of a civil society. If they want to write a story that's going to let the racists come out and talk like that, that's great, but we need much better than that. We deserve much better than that."

Richard Pamatatau said news values could be applied, as the league celebrations were unusual and unexpected, but he said the people of Westmere and Port Chevalier didn't expect jazz festival goers to recently use their front yards as toilets either.

Tonga's Tuimoala Lolohea is all smiles with fans after beating Samoa.

Tonga's Tuimoala Lolohea is all smiles with fans after beating Samoa. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Mr Pamatatau said journalists needed to question their 'positionality' when they write a story.

He said people need to drop the agendas they grow up with and deal with facts.

Meanwhile, Auckland Council is scrambling to organise a family-friendly event this weekend for Tongan rugby league fans to prevent a repeat of the recent disorder.

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