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Commissioner says cartoons are offensive and stigmatising

Race Relations Commissioner says cartoons are offensive and stigmatising

Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy says a cartoon published in newspapers is sadly insensitive to the issue of children living in poverty.

She says, “This is not particularly clever and many will find it hurtful and offensive. The worst aspect, in my opinion, is that it stigmatises efforts to address the situation that sees too many of our children living in poverty.

“Beyond that, it is glaringly obvious that the cartoon portrays Māori or Pacific as the butt of its attempted humour. Using such negative stereotypes in this way is insulting and derogatory in the extreme. “

Dame Susan said that newspapers and cartoonists have the right to publish what they see fit. But they needed to act with responsibility. People offended by the cartoon need to make their views clear to the newspaper’s editor. If they were not satisfied with the response from the Marlborough Express, they could take it further with a complaint to the Press Council.

The Human Rights Act does have a provision relating to causing racial hostility. However, the reality is that although the right to freedom of expression is not absolute, a very high threshold is necessary before the Act can be said to have been breached.

Dame Susan said she would be writing to the editor of the newspapers to seek a meeting to discuss the issue.


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