Freedom of the Press
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
While the news media are generally free and vigorous, the country’s first sedition case in more than 80 years prompted debate on the implications for the press. Pamphleteer Tim Selwyn was jailed for two months in July 2006 under Section 81 of the Crimes Law. He had admitted to conspiring to commit willful damage when an ax was embedded in Prime Minister Helen Clark’s electoral office window in November 2004. Selwyn had admitted in court to “having a hand” in media releases and pamphlets claiming responsibility for the attack and calling on other New Zealanders to take “similar action.”
The controversy over the publication of Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad early in 2006 had an impact in New Zealand with differences among leading news media on how the issue should be covered. The country’s largest daily newspaper, the New Zealand Herald, opted not to publish such a “gratuitous offence.” Two other daily newspapers, the Dominion Post and Nelson Mail, published all 12 cartoons and defended their free speech action in the face of criticism by the country’s tiny Muslim minority and fears of damage to New Zealand’s growing trade with the Middle East. Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres initiated a dialogue with newspaper editors in February, “cultural diversity” guidelines were drawn up, and the editors of the two dailies apologized for any offense caused to the Muslim population.
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 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. There were a reported 3.2 million internet users, or roughly 75 percent of the population, and the internet is open and unrestricted.