NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to RNZ during a press conference in Christchurch.

Radio ga ga: There is no NZ government gag on RNZ comments

AAP FactCheck April 30, 2021

The Statement

A Facebook post claims the New Zealand Labour administration told the country’s public radio broadcaster, RNZ, to remove comments on social media that were critical of government policy.

The April 28 post from a New Zealand-based page includes a picture of RNZ’s logo and a swastika alongside the words “Third Reich” and an image of NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The text reads: “And so it begins. The Labour government have told RadioNZ to remove any comments from its social media platform that criticise government policy.”

The post had been shared more than 270 times, attracting more than 150 comments, 190 reactions and 20,000 views at the time of writing.

A Facebook post
 RNZ has been told to remove social media criticism of NZ government policy, a post claims. 

The Analysis

Despite the post’s claims, comments criticising New Zealand government policy continue to be published on Radio NZ’s Facebook page. The government said it had issued no instructions to RNZ about removing or moderating comments, and the public broadcaster confirmed no such requests had been received.

The Facebook post does not include a source for its claim, however it appears to be in response to RNZ updating its Facebook comments policy on April 27. The policy said RNZ would not tolerate harmful communications, including abusive posts on social media, and it would proactively disable comments on Facebook posts that may attract abusive comments.

“Comments may be deleted, and accounts banned or referred under the Harmful Digital Communications legislation,” the policy said, referring to laws introduced under the National Party government in 2015.

RNZ said it would remove comments that were “obviously illegal, defamatory, ‘fake news’, or trolling the page or other commenters”. Other rules included: “No personal attacks, name calling, comments about someone’s parentage, hate speech, or ad-hominem attack … Anything that could be taken as threatening, harassing, bullying, obscene, offensive, pornographic, sexist, racist, homophobic (or any other ~ist) is unacceptable and will be removed.”

The policy did not say that posts critical of New Zealand’s Labour government would be removed.

Since the policy was adopted, RNZ has limited comments on some posts about COVID-19 and vaccinations – see examples here, here and here – and stories involving legal issues.

However, multiple stories and comments have been posted that are critical of the Ardern government. For example, on a post on April 28 about the rising cost of housing, one commenter said: “Thanks Labour for creating the greatest housing crisis in history. Greatest homelessness and child poverty rates NZ has ever had. Greatest unaffordability of living and greatest Government dependency while we keep moving closer to communism.”

For an April 29 post about calls for more support services for those in emergency accommodation, one comment said: “whats (sic) happened to this govt ending child poverty? Another failure lack of accountability and achievement (sic)”.

Another post on April 30 covered criticisms of the government’s bowel screening program, with a comment adding: “LIEBOUR will make this 1000% worse than what it was 4yrs ago”.

A spokesperson for the NZ prime minister’s office said the Facebook post’s claims had “no basis in fact”.

“The government has made no request to RNZ to moderate their comments in any way,” the spokesperson told AAP FactCheck in an email.

An RNZ spokesperson also told AAP FactCheck the post’s claim is false, adding: “There has been no request from the government to restrict comments on our social media posts.”

The Verdict

There is no evidence that the New Zealand Labour government has ordered public broadcaster Radio NZ (RNZ) to remove comments on its Facebook page that criticise government policy.

Both the government and RNZ said the claim was false, and numerous comments that criticise the Ardern-led administration continue to be published on RNZ Facebook posts.

False – Content that has no basis in fact.

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