Post HRC Meeting: Khan Audio, Pankhurst Transcript
Post HRC Meeting: Khan Audio and Pankhurst Transcript
Yesterday, media representatives who had published cartoons offensive to Muslims got around the boardroom table at the Human Rights Commission to discuss the issue with representatives from the Muslim Community as well as Catholic and Jewish religious leaders.
After the meeting Javed Khan from the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand declared he was very happy with the meetings outcome.
Mr Khan had warned the Dominion Post's Editor, Tim Pankhurst, prior to publishing the cartoons, that there could be possible trade repercussions for New Zealand should the cartoons be reprinted in New Zealand.
Currently New Zealand diplomats and trade officials are in damage control regarding possible trade repercussions that may eventuate after the Australian owned newspapers, The Dominion Post and The Christchurch Press' decided to reprint the controversial cartoons. The cartoons have also appeared on TVNZ and TV3.
However, Mr Khan was upbeat that the damage to New Zealand's economy could be controlled. Mr Khan was particularly pleased by the assurances given to him by the Dominion Post and Christchurch Press's editors that they would not be reprinting the cartoons.
While normally a man that makes the news yesterday Dominion Post editor, Tim Pankhurst, was the news. Mr Pankhurst took the opportunity following yesterdays meeting to put his side to the assorted media and deflect a few brickbats and barbs from rival media organisations.
Tim Pankhurst: We have had a very positive meeting with Mr Khan and his federation colleagues, also with the Jewish and Roman Catholic representatives as well. We have a much better understanding now of each other's positions. They, on their part, understand the freedom of speech issues but we also accept that [freedom of speech] does not come without responsibilities.
We have agreed to apologise for causing the offence that we have but we don't resile from the fact that we did publish in the first place. In the context that the reaction [to the cartoons] had become the story. We also agreed given the degree of offence this has caused, to an extent I think none of us expected, that it would not be wise and we see no reason, to reproduce those cartoons.
The assurance that we would not be publishing is on behalf of the Dominion Post and the Press.
Question: With that greater understanding, would you, going back in time, still publish?
Tim Pankhurst: We are more interested in seeing where we go from here and I think we made huge progress today and I think we have a much better understanding of each others positions
Question: I'm saying would you publish if you had been at a meeting like this before you published the first time– would you still publish?
Tim Pankhurst: We published those images in the context of the world reaction. At least twenty four other countries have done so now. Our view was that our readers could not be fully informed if they didn't see what the fuss was about and we stand by this now.
Question: You'll be accused of backing down now?
Tim Pankhurst: By you?
Question: Well, some may say that you've backed down – that you've backed down from this principle that you have so vigorously fought for?
Tim Pankhurst: We don't see it that way. We don't resile from the publication but we see no reason to republish.
Question: Why did you think [publishing the cartoons] wouldn't cause offence when MFAT [Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade] and Javed Khan had warned you on the Friday?
Tim Pankhurst: There are a number of times that the media causes offence if that was our guiding principle then there would be a number of empty pages.
Question: Did MFAT warn you of trade repercussions on Friday?
Tim Pankhurst: I had a call from Simon Murdoch who called me informally. He said that he was calling as an individual and he began by pointing out [his] respect for the press but also that there could be possible repercussions if we went ahead and published.
Question: So it was a complete surprise on Monday when there were possible trade repercussions and offence was taken?
Tim Pankhurst: The degree of the reaction has been surprising, yes.
Question: An Iranian newspaper is planning on printing cartoons of the Holocaust – is that something the Dominion Post would consider printing?
Tim Pankhurst: Let's wait and see what happens.
Question: Will you be publishing an apology in the paper?
Tim Pankhurst: We'll be giving a pretty full report of the meeting today and the press release that is due out shortly does contain that.
Question: What is your response to Prime Minister Clark,Tim, that what you did is unnecessary and quite gratuitous?
Tim Pankhurst: I think it has to be seen in context. The Prime Minister is talking to a foreign audience and she is clearly wanting it to be seen that her Government is not party to this and quite clearly they weren't. She is wanting to make that point.
Question: Have you in agreeing not to publish again curtailed your freedom of speech?
Tim Pankhurst: No not at all we offered that – it was not asked by Mr Khan – I don't think he expected that outcome from this meeting. But I go back to the point we published those cartoons in the context and our readers are now clear about what the issue is about.
Question: How do you take the criticism form the Prime Minister that what you did is illjudged and gratutious?
Tim Pankhurst: That is her view.
Question: Have you had any pressure from Australia to back down on this?
Tim Pankhurst: No!
Question: What about
Fairfax – your publishers?
Tim Pankhurst: Oh…our publishers! We have had fantastic support from Joan Withers our NZ CEO and from Peter O'Hara, our Editor in Chief, who in turn had the backing of David Kirk, our CEO in Australia. Fairfax's position is that this is a call for editors to make and they backed that.