When the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples came to visit in November 2005, he wrote a report with 105 recommendations, mostly for the government, to ensure the human rights of Maori were upheld within Aotearoa.
The one that interests me most today is number 104:
Public media should be encouraged to provide a balanced, unbiased and non-racist picture of Maori in New Zealand society, and an independent commission should be established to monitor their performance and suggest remedial action.
Negative media coverage was highlighted in several ways in the report – in the media describing Maori as receiving “special privileges” in a variety of ways (Treaty settlements, services for Maori, Foreshore and Seabed access), and in the media failing to report “good news” and focussing on “bad news”.
None of these things are shocking or surprising. In fact, they pretty much describe how I feel most days when I open New Zealand newspapers.
Recently I went to the launch of a DVD made by the Aotearoa Indigenous Rights Trust. The 26 minute DVD is about UN processes and structures to support indigenous peoples, and is densely packed with information.
The launch was in the Salmond Room, Government Buildings, Wellington. Attendees included a judge from the International Human Rights Court, as well as academics, government officials, Maori rights experts and anyone else who had seen the press release.
Yep, they sent out a press release. And do you know how many members of any media were there?
None that I saw.
I wrote a story about the DVD. But imagine how much more could have been done by a bigger media outlet?
This is a group of people – mostly Maori lawyers – who are volunteering their time to work on New Zealand’s international human rights record and obligations. A group of people who include a UN fellow, experts in international law.
And let’s not forget New Zealand is one of only three countries NOT to sign up for legal and human rights for indigenous peoples under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The others, Australia and the United States, are not reknown for their positive treatment of indigenous people.
The DVD launch seems like a “good news” story to me – but maybe one too politically sensitive for New Zealand – with our “best race relations in the world”?