The Media Council has unanimously found a column by Siouxsie Wiles in Stuff was a breach of two principles – accuracy and corrections.
She claimed that the seven signatories to the now infamous Listener letter has sent lawyers letters to junior colleagues, specifically:
“The reason I got involved is because those professors and fellows have influence and power over people’s careers. Astonishingly, some are now intimidating junior colleagues with lawyer’s letters.”
The astonishing part is this is not true. The Council noted:
11. The complainants complained about the statement “Astonishingly, some are now intimidating junior colleagues with lawyer’s letters”. They see it as a “serious and completely inaccurate” allegation which has harmed university relationships and “seriously damaged our reputations”. The Council agrees that the statement was inaccurate. It appears plain that none of the named Professors were involved in intimidating junior colleagues with lawyer’s letters.
12. It is also of the view that this is a most serious allegation to make, striking at the heart of academic freedom by asserting that the Professors were trying to stifle opposing views using lawyers’ threats. It required immediate public correction.
I hope Stuff will give this finding as much prominence as the original column. It has smeared and damaged the six surviving letter writers by portraying them as intolerant bullies, when in fact they are the ones who are the victims of intolerant bullies.