FACT CHECK: Did New Zealand’s Government Tell A Public Broadcaster To Censor Anti-Government Comments On Its Social Media Platforms?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook claims “the labour government” of New Zealand has instructed Radio New Zealand (RNZ) to remove comments that criticize the government from its social media pages.

Verdict: False

There is no evidence the New Zealand government asked RNZ to censor comments. Both RNZ and the prime minister’s office refuted the claim.

Fact Check:

The post features images of RNZ’s logo, a swastika with the words “THIRD REICH” and a picture of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who is the leader of the Labour Party. Text in the image reads: “AND SO IT BEGINS… The Labour government have told RNZ to remove any comments from its social media platform that criticise government policy.”

RNZ is “New Zealand’s independent public service multimedia organisation and is a Crown entity established under the Radio New Zealand Act 1995,” according to its website.

There is no evidence, however, the New Zealand government has asked RNZ to remove comments on its social media platforms that criticized the government. Had the government actually done so, media outlets likely would have reported on it, yet none have, except to debunk the baseless claim.

Such a move would seemingly violate New Zealanders’ right to free speech as enshrined in section 14 of the 1990 Bill of Rights Act, which states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.”

Ellen Read, deputy chief press secretary for the prime minister’s office confirmed in an email to Check Your Fact that the government did not ask RNZ to remove comments that were critical of the government from its social media pages.

“I can confirm that no request was made by the Government,” Read said. (RELATED: Does A New Law In New Zealand Strip The ‘Human Right To Grow Food’?)

Leilani Momoisea, a spokesperson for RNZ, agreed, saying: “That claim is false. There has been no request from the NZ government to remove any comments from our social media pages that criticise government policy.”

Additionally, comments critical of the government can still be found in response to news stories posted on Facebook by RNZ, further adding to the claim’s dubiousness.

The baseless claim may be referencing changes RNZ made to its comment policy in early 2021 outlined in a lengthy statement on its website. The policy change was unrelated to comments critical of the government.

“As a public media organisation, RNZ welcomes robust feedback and seeks to have ongoing conversations with our audiences,” the statement reads, in part. “But RNZ will not tolerate harmful communications - for example, abusive posts on social media, offensive comments and harassment via email or text.”

Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Reporter
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