RNZ appoints panel to investigate inappropriate editing of online stories

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New Zealand's public broadcaster RNZ is launching a review into wire news edits
New Zealand's public broadcaster RNZ has launched a review into wire news edits . . . a panel of experts has been named. Image: Diego Opatowski/RNZ News

RNZ News

RNZ has appointed a group of experts to carry out an investigation over how pro-Russian edits were inserted into international stories online.

An RNZ digital journalist has been placed on leave after it came to light he had changed news agency stories on the war in Ukraine.

RNZ has since been auditing hundreds of stories the journalist edited for its website over a five-year period.

RNZ board chairman Dr Jim Mather
RNZ board chairman Dr Jim Mather speaking to a select committee in 2020 . . . “Policy is one thing but ensuring it’s put into practice is another.” Image: Dom Thomas/RNZ

Twenty-one stories from news agency Reuters and one BBC item have so far been found to be inappropriately edited, and have been corrected. Most relate to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but others relate to Israel, Syria and Taiwan.

Media law expert Willy Akel, will chair a three-person panel. The other members are public law expert and former journalist Linda Clark, and former director of editorial standards at the ABC, Alan Sunderland.

RNZ board chairman Dr Jim Mather told RNZ’s Morning Report the board had also agreed on the review’s terms of reference.

“The terms of reference are specific about reviewing the circumstances around the inappropriate editing of wire stories discovered in June 2023 identifying what went wrong and recommending areas for improvement.

Specific handling of Ukraine complaint
“We’re also going to look at the specific handling of the complaint to the broadcasting minister from the Ukrainian community in October 2022 and then it’s going to broaden out to review the overall editorial controls, systems and processes for the editing of online content at RNZ.”

The review would also look at total editorial policy and “most importantly” practice as well, Mather said.

No stone would be left unturned, he said.

“Policy is one thing but ensuring it’s put into practice is another.

“We have specifically and purposefully decided not to limit it in any way shape or form but to allow it to broaden as may be required to ensure we restore public confidence in RNZ.

“We’re prepared as a board to support the panel going where they need to, to give us all confidence that we are ensuring that robust editorial process are being followed.

“I’m making no pre-determinations whatsoever, I’m waiting for the review to be conducted.”

The investigation was expected to take about four weeks to complete.

Dr Mather said he retained confidence in RNZ chief executive and editor-in-chief Paul Thompson.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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