Topic: Te Reo Māori

Herald columnist says ODT opinion piece was hateful

By Kawe Kōrero Reporters , Kayne Ngātokowhā Peters

A New Zealand Herald columnist is calling for hateful opinions published by the media to be banned.

This comes after a column appeared in the Otago Daily Times last week by writer Dave Witherow who expressed his contempt for te reo Māori being spoken on Radio New Zealand. He called supporters of te reo Māori "boring bigots" and argued “inflicting te reo on the entire population is contemptuous”.

NZ Herald columnist Rachel Stewart spoke to Māori TV’s Kawekōrero Reporters programme about Witherow’s column which was given the greenlight by Otage Daily Times editor Barry Stewart.

“It was a stupid column, any fool can write,” said Rachel Stewart.

“And it was hateful and it was racist. And there’s no way around that.”

Stewart says the media often thinks freedom of expression includes all opinions but agreed with Dame Susan Devoy who said free speech is not hate speech.

“What Dave Witherow did was deliver hate speech,” said Stewart.

“We can get lots of fools lining up to write columns but we want intelligent debate. If he can’t debate what he was talking about, which was you know the use of te reo, then he needs to front up and make me, as someone who totally supports the language, make me think again about that. And he can’t do that.”

Stewart points out that Witherow’s kind of opinion plays into the hands of media organisations who are out to boost their following.

“Journalism is struggling,” said Stewart.

“It would be naïve for me to say that it wasn’t. They’re doing everything they can to generate revenue. Click bait is all. We’re seeing it more and more

Stewart was also quick to call out Sir William Gallagher and said New Zealand is at a time where it needs to be able to debate opinions on te reo Māori and the Treaty of Waitangi in a healthy manner.

“If we can’t do better than that as a nation then we are obviously not liking ourselves very much.”