New Zealand | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

New Zealand

New Zealand

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

13

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

5

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

6

The news media in New Zealand generally enjoy a level of freedom shared by few other Commonwealth countries. Although democratic traditions have been strengthened in recent years by reforms such as the Official Information Act and Bill of Rights Act, there are still concerns that these rights remain relatively fragile. Early in 2005, members of parliament attempted to banish TV cameras from the legislature in a blatant attack on public rights. Investigative reports in the Sunday Star-Times and the independent Scoop website claiming that the country's Security Intelligence Service had spied on indigenous Maori groups and individuals for political purposes were dismissed by an official inquiry. During the 2005 general election campaign, leading current affairs host Sean Plunker was suspended after a "confrontational" interview with a minority opposition Green Party leader, Jeanette Fitzsimons. A controversial court ruling at the start of the election campaign forced a television network to open up an election policy debate that excluded two party leaders; a court later ruled that the network had to accommodate the two leaders. In spite of a culture of more open government established since the Official Information Law was enacted in 1982, critics have concerns about a perceived bias against disclosure of archives to the media.

Four companies, all foreign owned, continue to control a significant portion of the country's print media sector. Australia's John Fairfax Holdings owns almost 48 percent of New Zealand's daily newspaper circulation. The country's largest daily, the New Zealand Herald, and a significant slice of smaller provincial and suburban newspapers are owned by the rival Australian Provincial Newspapers group, while the Australian Consolidated Press dominates New Zealand magazines. The state-owned corporation Television New Zealand dominates television with two free-to-air channels and was increasingly at the center of controversy over management issues. Maori Television Service, a bilingual second public broadcaster, had a successful debut broadcasting in English and Maori. As of December 2005, there were a reported 3.2 million internet users, or roughly 75 percent of the population. The internet is open and unrestricted.