12 Sep 2018

Sir Ray pursues media group over 'distressful' stories

6:47 am on 12 September 2018

Scientist and entrepreneur Sir Ray Avery has laid a complaint against a media outlet claiming stories published online have caused him severe emotional distress.

Sir Ray Avery

Sir Ray Avery Photo: Supplied

The former New Zealander of the year began a process under the Harmful Digital Communications Act, which could land online news publication Newsroom in court.

Newsroom co-editor Tim Murphy said he received an email from online safety body Netsafe, which was a first referral, involving a mediation process under the Act.

He said Sir Ray believed five of about 13 or 14 stories Newsroom had written amounted to harassment and digital harm.

"What he's asked for, or suggested to Netsafe, is that we should consider removing the news stories about him and his background and his products and his promises, and that we should agree to refrain from writing further stories about him," he said.

"Well we won't do that. Either of those things."

Mr Murphy said Newsroom began writing pieces about Sir Ray and his work as a matter of public interest, when he was seeking $4 million in public funds for his LifePod incubators.

The National Party's former minister of justice, Amy Adams, who introduced the Act in 2015, said the media was never the intended target.

"That's not to say of course that the media couldn't act outrageously, not that I've ever seen them do so," she said.

"But really it was intended to focus on things like revenge porn, cyber bullying, threatening communications over the internet.

"That was the sort of behaviour that was often quoted and the sort of behaviour I've seen it used to deal with to date."

Ms Adams said if it was to be extended in a way that sought to or had the effect of limiting the proper operations of the media, that would be a "very worrying development."

If Netsafe's mediation is unsuccessful between Sir Ray Avery and Newsroom, the next step is a hearing in the District Court.