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Voices For Freedom lay formal complaint over ‘Fire & Fury’

Fire & Fury complaints news

Voices For Freedom (VFF) have laid formal complaints over legacy media programme ‘Fire & Fury’ and its associated written articles.

VFF allege the programme breached Stuff’s own Editorial Code of Practice and Ethics (Stuff ECPE) as well as multiple Media Council Principles and Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand.

‘Fire & Fury’ was presented by journalist Paula Penfold. It was produced by Louisa Cleave and the Stuff Circuit Investigation team, and was funded by New Zealand On Air via the ‘Public Interest Journalism’ fund.

The complaint is founded on breaches of the following standards:

  • Right of reply
  • Accuracy, fairness and balance
  • Bias
  • Diversity, discrimination and prejudice

Right of Reply

The programme did not give VFF a right of reply.

The right of reply is one of the basic tenets of journalistic fairness, and is practised widely around the world, including in New Zealand.

The Stuff ECPE states:

‘Any subject of a news story who is facing criticism or allegations must be afforded reasonable right of reply before publication.’

In its complaint, VFF said:

‘VFF was not given the right of reply to the allegations made about our organisation, its founders, or the many statements taken out of context from our online content and twisted to suit the narrative of the programme. No one from the Stuff Circuit team sought comment from VFF management at any point, including during the planning and production of the programme or after the programme’s release.’

In response to widespread criticism of the programme’s departure from standard journalistic practices, Penfold argued that groups like VFF had ample opportunity to have their ideas and positions heard via their online content, webinars, etc.

However, VFF point out that while their audience is comprised of everyday Kiwis spread across New Zealand, it is still limited to those who actively seek out their content. A right of reply ordinarily should be granted within the same forum or publication in which the allegations are being made, or, if that is not possible, in subsequent publications while the interest in the story is still evident.

Additionally, VFF have been de-platformed from most mainstream social and legacy media platforms. Therefore, Penfold’s view that VFF ‘have plenty opportunity for right of reply’, is ‘absurd’ according to VFF:

‘The audience reached by [‘Fire & Fury] is completely different from VFF’s subscribers, followers, and online viewers. Mainstream audiences would not be familiar with VFF’s full-context statements, ideas, content, or resources; their thoughts and opinions about VFF would almost entirely be shaped by statements and opinions gleaned from mainstream news.

‘Public faith in mainstream media to present balanced perspectives on controversial topics is waning. It is eroded further by decisions to provide cherry-picked, distorted, one-sided ‘investigations’ on complex topics such as those explored in The Programme.

VFF urges Stuff Circuit to remedy this situation by:

  • Removing The Programme from its online platforms,
  • Immediately seeking a right of reply from VFF, and
  • Editing the documentary to include the response before considering republishing.’

Accuracy, Fairness and Balance

Stuff’s ECPE states journalists and content should:

  • Strive to verify information is correct before publication
  • Strive to represent all significant sides to a story
  • Should not mislead, either deliberately or through the omission of relevant information. Coverage should be proportionate and in context.

The Media Council guidelines state:

‘Publications should be bound at all times by accuracy, fairness and balance, and should not deliberately mislead or misinform readers by commission or omission. In articles of controversy or disagreement, a fair voice must be given to the opposition view.’

The Broadcasting Standards Authority requirements state:

‘When controversial issues of public importance are discussed in news, current affairs or factual programmes, broadcasters should make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant viewpoints either in the same broadcast or in other broadcasts within the period of current interest unless the audience can reasonably be expected to be aware of significant viewpoints from other media coverage.’

VFF say the programme was presented as a piece of serious investigative journalism. It accused VFF of spreading misformation and disinformation. Derogatory language was used to describe the various subjects, and included words such as ‘hateful,’ ‘violent,’ ‘monsters,’ ‘dangerous,’ ‘grotesque,’ and ‘adept manipulators.’

The programme sought comment from Kate Hannah, head of ‘The Disinformation Project’. Hannah stated ‘the role of women in protofascist and fascist movements has always been significant.’ When asked by Penfold whether VFF were ‘agents of fascism’, Hannah responded:

‘All of the different groups that we see in NZ have features of fascist ideas, around power and control and then features of white or national identity ideas related to fascism’.

Hannah’s comments were accompanied by images of marching women in Nazi Germany.

VFF claim these statements are ‘grotesque’ and ‘borderline defamatory.’ The three co-founders of VFF are women, one of whom has Jewish ancestry.

VFF say its principles are the ‘anti-thesis of facism’ and they are firmly against facism of any form. It’s common knowledge amongst its supporters that VFF stands for:

  • Openness, transparency, discussion, and debate
  • Local governance and autonomy
  • Decentralisation
  • The separation of Industry and the State
  • Individual rights and responsibilities
  • Community connection and resilience

VFF note that public trust in legacy mainstream journalism is at an all-time low. VFF claim this is due in part to the not uncommon practise of legacy journalists to deliberately set out to misrepresent and/or mislead the public.

One clear example of this is Stuff’s claim in associated articles that VFF instructed candidates to ‘hide’ their associations with VFF. VFF say this ‘is a blatant lie.’


Stuff’s ECPE states:

‘Stuff is politically non-partisan. Journalists should take care not to allow bias – or the perception of bias – in their reporting and in public comments, including on social media. Journalists should guard against bias based on societal structures or their personal background.’

VFF say:

‘One in three New Zealanders supported the protest at Parliament in Feb-March this year. Over 100,000 Kiwis support VFF. Hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders were impacted by the vaccine mandates and efforts to divide our society and exclude an entire subset of New Zealanders from everyday life…

‘This group has been routinely treated with disdain and is regularly denigrated with minimising and belittling labels in mainstream media reporting. Clear media bias against this group has been on display throughout the entire pandemic…

‘[Fire & Fury] was no different; falling into the trap of perpetuating the same narrow-minded perspectives and failing to engage with the protagonists to actually hear their reasoning and points of view.’

Diversity, Discrimination and Prejudice

Stuff’s ECPE states:

‘Stuff seeks to fairly represent Aotearoa New Zealand in the voices it publishes. We believe an inclusive approach makes our coverage both richer and more accurate, by incorporating a wide range of experiences and perspectives. We will reflect diversity through our story selection, a rigorous approach to gauging a broad range of perspectives, and actively committing to an inclusive editorial recruitment policy.’

VFF say:

‘The perspective of those with lived experiences different from those promoted by Stuff and the media, such as those experiencing hardship, discrimination, harm, or injury due to the Government’s COVID-19 response, remains unheard. Worse yet, this group of Kiwis is further victimised and discriminated against via coordinated media attacks that taint the fabric of our society.

‘Stuff has denied VFF, its supporters, and more broadly people with different perspectives a voice. The Programme and subsequent reporting have misrepresented their ideas and devalued their experiences without ever giving them an opportunity to respond.’

In closing its complaint, VFF said:

‘The Stuff Circuit team should hang their heads in shame for participating in this active division of NZ society and the “othering” of a significant percentage of New Zealanders.’

NOTE: The above has been reproduced with the kind permission of VFF. You can read the full complaint material and information on the VFF website.

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  1. Now is the time for VFF followers and fans to donate to VFF, so that they can pay for legal fees and court costs. Any lawyers out there who can assist pro-bono would be appreciated as well!
    All of these agencies run by the government always have some sort of exclusion(s) to legitimate complaints that are filed, whether it be with the HRC, BSA, Ombudsman, etc….ALL seem to deflect the problems in question by stating that such complaints are ‘beyond the scope of this office’ or ‘the nature of your complaint does not have any validity with our office / Ministry, blah blah blah…!
    It must be remembered that we have, at this time, a soft communist government that is censoring much, while providing little actual unimpeded truth that is being systematically wiped from the true narratives. This is bent in the favour of the WEF, NWO, Zio-Communist modus operandis being enforced by those ‘Ministers’ who are totally UN-qualified for their portfolios.
    This is how tyranny, communo-fascism, and totalitarianism begins; with the ignorant, stupid and psychopathic holding government office, and the masses who are unconcerned…that is, until they get a knock on the door at midnight!
    That’s why they took the MSSA’s away from law-abiding citizens, so you can’t fight back against tyranny and criminal genocide / holodomor / holocaust!

  2. Good move. Media mercenaries must be exposed. Whether BSS is going to do anything is a different issue. If they rule it is Ok, it sets a precedent and we all can express our own opinions on Stuff, which is very low in any way.

  3. They absolutely have the right to make a formal complaint about it, but honestly we all know Jack sh!t will be done about it.

    State actors are always protected

  4. Stuff editor Michal Laws and the report has conducted themselves in a most dishonorable way violating their own principles in my opinion. Simply bought and paid for by govt money and ownership. Many Kiwis have suffered a great deal from losing jobs, homes and income. Even now stretched hospitals still haven’t rehired fired non vaxed employees. How can Stuff and the media justify this insanity ? many have a lot to answer for.

  5. What surprises me most is that Stuff actually thinks that a biassed documentary will be acceptable. It is not acceptable. But it will also lead to loss of trust in the media, as people realise what is happening; despite attempts to prevent this, people will realise that in time. Stuff are effectively destroying any trust remaining in their own business and also in their own area of the media. They are shooting themselves in the foot, without putting too fine a point on it. They seem to be unaware of this. So perhaps it is not surprising if they are also unaware of the damage they are doing to the fabric of NZ society; to the bonds that hold this country together. Their role in doing that will be clear to see, as time goes on. They could change course now, if they choose. It is well past time for that.

  6. Agree, VFF need to respond at this time. Stuff, and others of their ilk need to know there are limitations. They need to know where the line is. And they need to be put on notice they have taken that step too far and crossed it. This will be the first of many such actions against a biased media that claim a code of conduct and duly ignore it. I wish Voices for Freedom every success in this long overdue action.

  7. Kate Hannah – what an idiot. Clearly she lacks understanding of what fascism is. She is so indoctrinated and brainwashed she doesn’t realise she is the one guilty of supporting fascism. If she didn’t, we would be allowed to speak without fear of censorship.
    While she is learning that, she might want to educate herself what Nazis were as well – they were SOCIALISTS. National socialists to be precise. Who are the socialists in this country huh???? Kieran McAnulty declared he was a proud socialist…….put two and two together KATE.

    Goebbels said “accuse others of which you are guilty” not hard to see which playbook our govt is working from.

  8. Fancy Paula Penfold being against people standing for Freedom……shows you how far she has fallen. Dark forces driving you now Paula. That’s what happens when you sell your soul.

  9. The MSM exists to report on the news
    To a large extent subsidized by the govt
    Especially during the covid plandemic which it was used to a great extent to parrot the government’s fake narrative rhetoric false claims and lies
    Which have proved to be toxic and maleficent used against the citizens of NZ in obfuscation of the truth
    To give a clear and balanced, unbiased perspective on the state of affairs
    Not to carry out malicious unprovoked smear campaigns attacking citizens exercising their rights

  10. I laid a complaint myself with the BSA about a COVID related article and it went nowhere . Still I wish VFF the very best of luck. If we don’t, as a minimum complain, when we fell something is unfair in journalism (as as it is) then nothing ever changes.

    That said, the REAL change needs to be at the ballot box, in 2023…..

  11. Excellent rebuttal. VFF has been made fun of by mainstream media way too much and very unfairly. Glad they have attacked back and we must carry on attacking the corrupt mainstream media and their masters, the corrupt politicians

  12. when these shames (plandemic, russiagate , global warming) fall to pieces , msm need to be the 1st facing the firing squad followed by politicians ,moj , moh including medical practitioners and vaccinators . The most brain washed people come from the top , they have little street experience who don`t see red flags or smell a rat…..

  13. The govt needs to be removed for incompetence and dishonesty. Journalism should not be on the govts payroll. I dropped Stuff a year ago–bias, bias bias. I prefer to make my own mind up.
    Reviewing the crowds that turned up before Parliament or lined the way there I found a very wide cross section of NZ. Any govt not acknowledging that obvious cry for help must suffer. They do not have a right to ignore the people. They also do not have a right to offer themsleves as members of the Exewcutive Council with the degree of competency exhibited. They scamble from stupidity to stupidty. In a commercial environment they would have been sacked long ago and costs and retribution sought for the damage caused by their fraud.

  14. The use of the term ‘fascist’ seems much bandied about these days I suppose with the intention of creating fear and linking it to Nazi-ism and Mussolini. I personally have always votes Labour , supported Jacinda twice in elections but now realise the level of deceit and indoctrination which is coming not only from the government but main stream media. I first was triggered with alarm when ‘covid’ was introduced and the government made no attempt to recommend therapies which may help health eg vitamin and mineral supplements, only isolation and vaccination. I read an article carefully today regarding R numbers regarding the control of covid infections, it wasn’t an easy read but nowhere did the writer talk about the damage that vaccines are causing, it simply wanted more frequent vaccinations… Why ? I ask, what is so devastating about this virus that we can’t live with it as we do with common colds and influenza. I’m not anti-vax but pro choice, I want people to know the risks in total and then decide for themselves if this is what they want without the fear of losing their jobs and all that entails. People need to know the full truth about risks and long term health damage and STUFF is not publishing those facts. Allow people in government and health establishments to discuss and debate issues freely otherwise the term fascist may well apply here in this country. I lived through WW2 and understand what the Jews and other Germans suffered, I’m not afraid of a virus or death, if my body doesn’t deal with it then time to go…but most of my ‘friends’ are terrified following this government propaganda regime….and they are terrified of me!

  15. The Nazi, Goebels once stated that “.. we must accuse others of the things we are doing.” No better phrase sums up Stuff and its frontline reporters. The media once proclaimed themselves as a nation’s watchdog, now they are this country’s attack dog. But they have made themselves the Gatekeeper. They have made themselves their own God.

    Stuff, by their behaviour, deserve to be put out of business, and in an ideal world this may have been a possibility. Yet we have travelled so far into the pit, beyond the scope of reason and sanity, such an outcome will indeed not happen. The next best thing we can hope for is they are given a rebuke and the slapping, sufficient they will apologise. This also is unlikely.

    Experience dictates Stuff will be directed by the Media Council to smarten up their act when it comes to reporting. To give due and proper time for rebuttal, and to report fairly. None of this will happen. The way forward for proper redress is through the Courts, case by case. Of course the dimming of Labour, and their removal next year may also provide other possibilities. Until then, Ladies go kick some butt…

  16. Fascism is defined as a ‘merger of Corporation and State’.
    Here we have the state funding a corporate news outlet, to do a propaganda hit piece on those who stand against the abrogation of basic human rights…
    Fascism anybody?

  17. I am a proud member of Voices for Freedom. I have the greatest admiration for those three amazing women who founded this movement. They are exactly the sort of people that our country needs so badly. They have inspired many others from all walks of life. This venal attack by Stuff shows that they, and their masters, greatly fear us

  18. Re: The Nazi, Goebels once stated that “.. we must accuse others of the things we are doing.”… the Govt. and those protesting the truthers are doing this sooooo much, it’s mind boggling insanity. Do they really believe what they say? I know one particular podium queen knows she’s lying, but what about the others? Surely they’ve got to wake up soon.


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