WELLINGTON: New Zealand’s national radio broadcaster said it has set up an independent review of its editorial processes after it published a range of stories on its website, including on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that were altered to present “a false account of events”.
Radio New Zealand (RNZ), which is government-funded but has editorial independence, had by Wednesday corrected 22 stories on its website dating back to April 2022 because of what it termed “inappropriate editing”.
The broadcaster, which first revealed the issues last Friday, said its board decided an independent review was necessary. The panel would review editorial processes and “examine factors and warning signs, which led to international wire stories being subedited with inappropriate content,” it said in a statement.
Reuters supplied 21 of the altered stories and one came from Britain’s BBC, RNZ’s list of stories that have been corrected shows.
Most of the corrections RNZ included in the 22 stories indicate the editing had changed the original stories to present pro-Russian interpretations of some events in Ukraine as fact. Stories on other topics, including on China-Taiwan relations and the Middle East, have also been corrected.
In its statement, RNZ said it would continue to audit stories published on its website and restore copy to its original state where issues are identified.
RNZ is a media client of Reuters.
Reuters said it had addressed the issue with RNZ.
“As stated in our terms and conditions, Reuters content cannot be altered without prior written consent. Reuters is fully committed to covering the war in Ukraine impartially and accurately, in keeping with the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles,” a spokesperson said.
The BBC did not immediately respond to a request for comment on RNZ’s move to review its internal processes. Earlier in the week, a BBC spokesperson referred Reuters’ request for comment back to RNZ.
RNZ Board Chairman Jim Mather said the review, to be conducted by three independent experts, was “in the interest of achieving and protecting the highest standards of journalism at RNZ.”
“We are focused on restoring the public’s confidence in us,” he said.
The panel includes New Zealand media law expert Willy Akel, public law expert and former journalist Linda Clark and former director of editorial standards at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Alan Sunderland.
“I am pleased to be asked to be part of the panel on what is a significant review. Issues of trust and integrity in the news media are important, and I look forward to getting to work on this,” Sunderland told Reuters.
Clark referred Reuters to the chair of the RNZ board while Akel declined to comment.
Last Friday, RNZ said it had become aware of the editing issue, and had started an “immediate investigation”. A staff member had been put on leave while the inquiry took place and was now prevented from accessing RNZ’s computer systems, it added.