Feb 15, 2012

Complaint template

Further to my promise yesterday, here is a generic complaint template. Just copy and paste this and bang it off to the relevant person/organisation. This template mainly applies to complaints to the Herald, but you can play around with it to make it more relevant to the Human Rights Commission. You can complain to the Press Council here and use this as a base, but you have to complain to the Herald first and then there are a number of other criteria.


Generic Complaint Template:

Dear Mr Hastings

Please consider this a formal complaint against Paul Holmes column published in the New Zealand on February 11.

1. Mr. Holmes employs unfair, offensive and discriminatory language when describing Maori. Mr Holmes describes Maori as “hateful”, “loony”, “irrational” and “greedy”. Such language serves to disparage Maori.

2. Mr Holmes characterises Maori in an unfair, offensive and discriminatory light. For example, Mr Holmes contents that “Maori” beat their children, “feed themselves silly” and live in a “perfect world of benefit provision”. This is a gross misrepresentation and does not serve any purpose other than to fuel negative sentiment against Maori.

3. The unfair, offensive and discriminatory language and characterisations Mr Holmes employs amounts to hate speech. Hate speech is not defined under New Zealand law, however the following definition is a useful guide: any communication which disparages a person or a group on the basis of some characteristic, for example race. Mr Holmes, through offensive language and fallacious characterisations, disparages Maori as a race. Mr Holmes comments amount to sustained, racist abuse against Maori.

4. The first nine paragraphs, when viewed as a whole, actively encourage negative feeling towards Maori. In fact, the first nine paragraphs serve to vilify Maori.

5. Mr Holmes does not distinguish between individual Maori and Maori as a race. Mr Holmes describes Waitangi Day as a “loony Maori fringe self denial day”. This passage clearly refers to all Maori. Mr Holmes also refers to the “hopeless failure of Maori”. Again, Mr Holmes is referring to all Maori. Mr Holmes continues saying “no, if Maori want Waitangi Day”. Mr Holmes is referring to all Maori – there is no other reading of this sentence.

6. Mr Holmes makes a number of factually incorrect statements. For example he speaks of the “never defined” principles of the Treaty. The principles of the Treaty of Waitangi are, after over two decades of judicial refinement, clear, well defined and widely applied. Mr Holmes also implies that Maori want Waitangi Day for themselves when he says “no, if Maori want Waitangi Day, let them have it”. Maori have never requested Waitangi Day to be a day for Maori only.

7. When Mr Holmes speaks of his ancestors who fought in WWI he actively encourages racial division. He draws a line between Waitangi Day, which Holmes incorrectly characterises as a Maori day, and ANZAC Day which Holmes implicitly paints as a Pakeha day. No only does this encourage racial division, but it diminishes the important role Maori played in WWI.

8. Free speech is not at issue here. Mr Holmes has a right to free speech, but free speech does not extend to hate speech. The line is drawn where speech disparages another person or group on the basis of some characteristic, in this case race. When hate speech is the case, freedom of speech is irrelevant.

9. Freedom of speech must always be accompanied by social responsibility. Meaning freedom of speech does not guarantee one the right to vilify another group.

10. In publishing Holmes racist rant, the Herald failed to uphold acceptable standards of media ethics. Media organisations are under an obligation to run a range of views, but those views must meet requirements of good taste, decency and acceptability. Holmes piece did not meet these, in my opinion, low requirements. The Herald also owes it to society not to print racist rants. If they do, they legitimise that racism and provide a platform for the other racists to perpetuate their views. This, more often than not, hurts the race, usually a minority race, on the receiving end.

11. The Herald’s decision to print Mr Holmes column serves to entrench poorly informed opinions and, more significantly, drags public discourse down to the sewers. The sick comments under Mr Holmes’ piece are a testament to this.

12. Mr Holmes’ column arguably breached s61 of the Human Rights Act 1993. Specifically s61(a) which makes it unlawful to publish written material that is likely to excite hostility or bring into contempt any group on the basis of race. The racist comments under Mr Holmes column, as well as comments on many blogs, prove that Mr Holmes’ column excited hostility and brought into contempt Maori as a race.

13. Mr Holmes column may also be unlawful under s131 of the Human Rights Act 1993 – inciting racial disharmony.

14. Mr Holmes column was inaccurate, unfair, offensive and undeniably racist. The Herald was irresponsible to publish the column.

15. I ask that you sack Paul Holmes without delay. His racism has no place in New Zealand society. I will be boycotting the New Zealand Herald as long as Paul Holmes remains as a contributor. Please do the right thing.

Kind regards,
[Insert name]

Remember Hasting's email address is David.Hastings@nzherald.co.nz


  1. Edited and emailed. Thanks for this, it comes across with simple clear and valid points.

  2. Love it, sent mine today!



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