Cumin v Radio New Zealand (15/003)

Content Palestinian president called ‘angel of peace’ Updated at 4:21 pm on 18 May 2015

Publisher: Radio New Zealand, Website

Complainant: D. Cumin

Outcome: No Grounds to Proceed

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The Chairman noted the concerns of the Complainant the content, headed “Palestinian president called ‘angel of peace’” was inaccurate as another news story said the Pope said to the Palestinian President “may you be an angel of peace.” The Complainant said “there is a very big difference between calling someone something and wishing they were that thing.”

The Chairman turned to the preliminary response from the Publisher, Radio New Zealand, and noted its view “the exact words that Pope Francis said to Mahmoud Abbas is not a material fact which would impact on the readers’ understanding of the story… what actual words were spoken by the Pope were peripheral to this report.” The Chairman also took into account the statement had been translated from another language.

The Chairman considered whether the representation of the conversation between the Pope and the Palestinian President in the article was inaccurate. The Chairman noted the statement subject to complaint appeared as the heading of the article but was further contextualised in the body copy stating, in part: “The BBC’s David Willey in Rome says that after 20 minutes of private talks, Pope Francis gave Mr Abbas the medallion depicting an angel of peace adding: ‘It is appropriate because you are an angel of peace.’”

The Chairman said it was clear when read in its entirety that the statement was about the progress that had been made between Palestine and the Vatican. He noted this was symbolised by the gift of a medallion which included an angel of peace. In the Chairman’s view whether the Pope called Mr Abba “an” angel of peace or whether he said “may” he be an angel of peace was immaterial in the context of the overall article which focused on the canonisation of two Palestinian nuns.

The Chairman noted the source of the information had been included as the BCC, which was clear to readers. The Chairman said the Publisher had therefore made reasonable efforts to ensure that the content was accurate and was of the view the statement did not mislead in relation to a material point of fact.

The Chairman said the statement as in the article was not inaccurate and was not in breach of Standard 1 Accuracy and there was no apparent breach of the Code of Practice.

Accordingly, the Chairman ruled the complaint had no grounds to proceed.