The Media Council has upheld a complaint against RNZ for falsely reporting it had sought comment from New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR) on a story about claims that the horse racing industry was cruel.
The article was about an animal rights protest at the Ellerslie Boxing Day races in Auckland last year. It reported the protest group's claims that 18 horses had died in relation to races that year, that horses were made to train too early and that this put them at high risk of injury.
When first put online the story included the statement that New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing had been approached for comment although nobody in the organisation had been contacted. NZTR said none of the protest group's claims were challenged and the lack of any journalistic rigour had helped the group spread their misinformation.
RNZ has apologised and acknowledged its handling of this story did not meet its editorial policies or Media Council principles.
The Media Council found that as well as being inaccurate when it reported comment had been sought, the article was also unfair. As originally published it was also unbalanced.
Media Council Principle 1 states that "Publications should be bound at all times by accuracy, fairness and balance, and should not deliberately mislead or misinform readers by commission or omission. In articles of controversy or disagreement, a fair voice must be given to the opposition view."
As to the substance of the claims made in the story about race-related horse deaths and that industry was cruel, the Media Council said these were clearly statements of fact and opinion put forward by the protest group. Apart from saying the group had made misinformed claims NZTR had not directly contested the statements made, so it was not clear where the facts lie.
The full Media Council decision is at [www.mediacouncil.org.nz mediacouncil.org.nz]