Jock Phillips comments condemning Rangiaowhia battle not unbalanced, BSA finds

Comments made by historian Jock Phillips to TV3's The Nation have come under fire.

Comments made by historian Jock Phillips to TV3's The Nation have come under fire.

Historian Jock Phillips was not inaccurate or unbalanced when he condemned a colonial-era colonel's "appalling act of genocide".

That's according to a ruling by the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA), who did not uphold a complaint against Mediaworks for airing Phillips' comments.

Phillips' words were broadcast on a segment of The Nation, which also appeared in a shortened form on Newshub. The segment examined whether New Zealand should consider removing statues or monuments to colonial-era figures whose actions could be considered questionable when held up to modern standards.

An example used in the broadcast was a statue of Colonel Marmaduke Nixon in South Auckland. Nixon, a member of the Colonial Defence Force Cavalry, died in 1864 after he was shot while leading an attack on the Maori village of Rangiaowhia in Waikato.

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A memorial to Nixon was completed in Otahuhu, South Auckland in 1868 and is still there today.

In his interview, Phillips cast doubt on whether Nixon's actions deserved official commemoration, calling the battle for Rangiaowhia an "appalling act of genocide".

He said said there was "some evidence" that there was an agreement between Maori and colonial troops that Rangiaowhia would be a safe refuge for women and children.

"The colonial troops went in there, set fire to the area, and there's some evidence that they shot women and children as they came out of burning buildings. It was a terrible atrocity," Phillips said.

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Complainant Chris Lee said Phillips' statements appeared to have been presented as fact in the programme, even though he had "yet to see any evidence" colonial troops had fired on women and children at Rangiaowhia.

Lee also said Phillips' comments were inaccurate and the broadcast was not balanced because no other perspective on the events at Rangiaowhia had been sought.

In response, Phillips told the broadcaster:

"I think it is clear Maori certainly believed that the village was a sanctuary for women and children and that at least one old man and two others were shot while emerging from a burning whare. Whether this amounts to an atrocity is, I suppose, up to judgement but Maori certainly believe so."

The BSA did not uphold Lee's complaints because it decided Phillips' comments were presented as analysis rather than fact, and the events at Rangiaowhia were not controversial enough to require a balancing opinion.

 - Stuff

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