Freedom of the Press

New Zealand

New Zealand

Freedom of the Press 2015

2015 Scores

Press Status

Free

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

19

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

8

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

7

New Zealand’s media are generally regarded as free and independent. However, state pressure on the confidentiality of sources took center stage in 2014.

 

Legal Environment

Press freedom in New Zealand 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. Defamation cases are civil matters, and can result in both punitive damages and heavy fines.

During the campaign period for New Zealand’s general election in September 2014, investigative journalist Nicky Hager released a controversial book entitled Dirty Politics. Based on confidential sources, the book revealed how Prime Minister John Key’s government was leaking select information to right-wing blogger Cameron Slater. The book led to the resignation of Justice Minister Judith Collins. In October, police raided Hager’s home and confiscated computers, flash drives, and other devices in an attempt to identify one of his sources. Hager declared that he would rather go to jail than reveal his sources, and the journalists’ union accused the government of harassment. Hager had also been collaborating with Glenn Greenwald of Britain’s Guardian newspaper to prepare articles on classified documents leaked by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. However, police said that the officers who raided the house did not know about Hager’s work on the leaked U.S. documents, and that the raid was solely in relation to Dirty Politics.

 

Political Environment

New Zealand’s news media are generally free of political pressure and include a variety of independent outlets. However, in 2014 there were reports of alleged government interference at state-funded Māori Television, and the publicly owned Television New Zealand (TVNZ) announced plans to outsource production of long-standing Māori and Pacific programs, raising concerns that the outlet’s growing commercialization could harm content diversity and the availability of programming for indigenous audiences.

Journalists are generally able to cover the news freely, and physical attacks or threats against the media are rare. There were no reports of physical harassment or assaults against journalists in 2014.

 

Economic Environment

New Zealand has three state-owned broadcasting corporations: TVNZ, Radio New Zealand, and Māori Television. However, the vast majority of print and broadcast media outlets are privately owned.

Australian-owned companies control a substantial portion of the print sector; Fairfax Media Limited, for example, boasts almost 48 percent of daily newspaper circulation. The country’s largest and most influential daily newspaper, the New Zealand Herald, and a string of smaller provincial and suburban newspapers are owned by another Australian firm, New Zealand Media and Entertainment (NZME), a rebranded version of the former APN News & Media. TVNZ has promoted increasing collaboration with the subscription network Sky TV and its free-to-air channel, Prime TV. Another rival, the MediaWorks group, owns the television channels TV3 and Four, as well as 18 radio brands.

There are no government restrictions on the internet, which was accessed by nearly 86 percent of the population in 2014.