10 Oct 2019

Video should not have been published

7:28 am on 10 October 2019

The Media Council has ruled that it was not in the best interests of a young girl for RNZ to have published a video of the girl, who was under the care of Oranga Tamariki.

On July 4, 2019 RNZ ran a story on Checkpoint and on its website about a 13-year-old girl who had "gone into hiding" from Oranga Tamariki, alleging she had been abused in state care. Police had been asked to locate her.

Oranga Tamariki was quoted as saying many of the statements made were untrue, but the wellbeing of "this vulnerable girl" was their greatest concern and they did not consider sharing information about her publicly to be in her best interests.

The story was accompanied by a video of the girl speaking of her dissatisfaction with her treatment by Oranga Tamariki.

The Media Council noted that while her face was completely blurred, it was likely those who knew her would recognise her and as the story contained personal information, including about sexual matters, it cannot have been in her best interest to be publicly identified. Once online material is published it can be difficult if not impossible to ensure it is removed from the internet, and in the future this young woman might regret its existence. The video added no information that was not contained in the accompanying story.

The Children and Young People Principle states that editors must demonstrate an exceptional degree of public interest to override the interests of the child or young person. The Council notes that while the girl's whānau consented to the publication of the video, responsibility for ensuring that the Principle relating to Children and Young People is not breached lies with the broadcaster.

A further complaint in relation to accuracy, fairness and balance was not upheld. Oranga Tamariki did provide RNZ with a statement saying many of the claims were untrue and this was included in the story, providing a degree of balance.

The Council noted there is undoubtedly a high degree of public interest in the work of Oranga Tamariki and the media has an important role to play in reporting any examples or allegations of abuse in state care, but broadcasters and editors must be particularly careful to protect the interests of children and young people.

RNZ had taken down the video while the complaint was considered. The Council has directed that the video should not be reinstated and should not be used again.

The full Media Council decision is at medicouncil.org.nz.