New Zealand | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

New Zealand

New Zealand

Freedom of the Press 2008

2008 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

New Zealand’s media remained vigorous and free during the year. Press freedom is guaranteed by convention and statute rather than constitutional right, and it is supplemented by freedom of information legislation passed in 1982. Sedition legislation was abolished in 2007. Although the media have been largely unaffected by antiterrorism laws, a contempt of court charge was filed against the Dominion Post in 2007 after it published intercepted communications and other inadmissible evidence related to the discovery of an alleged paramilitary training camp in the remote Urewera region. Also during the year, the self-regulatory Press Council conducted its first independent review since its founding in 1972. Recommendations of the resulting report included turning the council into a legal entity separate from its media industry funders, streamlining complaints processes, and conducting further independent reviews every five years. The broadcasting industry is regulated by the Broadcasting Standards Authority, which in 2007 imposed a fine and a five-hour halt in broadcasting on Alt TV. The channel was punished for screening offensive text messages.

While the news media are generally free of interference, there were several instances in 2007 of outlets coming under pressure from political actors. In a June decision that was condemned by the Commonwealth Press Union, a coalition of parliament members supported a rule change that banned satire, ridicule, and denigration of lawmakers using television footage shot from the parliament galleries. In addition, Amnesty International criticized attempts by Chinese authorities to interfere with free expression and media freedom in New Zealand. The group cited eight recent incidents involving Chinese officials, including one in March in which two local journalists were barred from photographing Chinese vice premier Zeng Peiyan.

Four companies, all foreign owned, continue to control a significant portion of the country’s print media sector. Australia’s John Fairfax Holdings owns 48 percent of New Zealand’s daily newspaper circulation. The New Zealand Herald, the largest circulation daily, and a significant slice of smaller provincial and suburban newspapers are owned by the rival Australian Provincial Newspapers (APN) group, amounting to 43 percent of the daily newspaper market. The state-owned Television New Zealand dominates television with two free-to-air channels, and Sky TV, owned by U.S.-based News Corporation, holds a monopoly over pay television. A trend emerged during 2007 in which a growing number of media companies were taken over by private equity corporations such as Australia’s Ironbridge, which bought out Mediaworks, the operator of a commercial radio network and TV3. Consolidation by media companies, especially APN, forced significant job losses during the year. Concerns over the quality of the news media contributed to a union-led initiative to create the Movement for Democratic Media. Roughly 75 percent of the population accessed the internet, which was open and unrestricted.