New Zealand press group asks Maoris for ‘forgiveness’

“It’s our fault!” », « Pardon ! ». The bilingual front page headline of Wellington’s daily newspaper The Dominion Post sounds like a historic mea culpa from one of New Zealand’s oldest dailies for the million Maoris (out of 5 million inhabitants) in the country. “Our monocultural approach to Maori reality shows that we have not always given an honest and balanced representation of Tangana Whenua (“People of the earth”, original name of the Maoris) “, acknowledges the editorial, always in one and always bilingual. “We have been racist, contributing to injuries, marginalization and stereotypes against Maori. We apologize to the Maoris ”.

In the land of “Long white cloud” which wants to present itself as a model of cohabitation and integration of its natives, this act of contrition of a large media will help to clarify the history of New Zealand, which has not always considered the Maori people with benevolence. “We have decided to question the work of our journalists who have so unfairly described the Maoris”, explained new editor-in-chief Anna Fifield, herself a former correspondent for Washington Post in China, back in his country last summer.

“We have been racist and we apologize to the Maori”

“In order to rebuild mutual trust, writes Anna Fifield, from now on we will adopt a multicultural approach in order to better represent the Maoris and all the people of “Aotearoa” (Editor’s note, the Maori name of New Zealand). It is a major project to question our role in the division of New Zealand society ”.

In its edition of November 30, The Dominion Post sent two journalists to the scene of a long standoff between the Maori in 1995 for 79 days and the municipality of Whanganui (west coast of the North Island) over property rights to Maori land. “We understood that at the time, the newspaper only gave the floor to the white city authorities, details journalist Mandy Te, barely a little Maori quote at the end of an article ”. And her colleague Katarina Williams to add: “Our readers have never heard the Maori version because of the ‘white and anemic’ officials in our newspapers. The Maori grievances have never been made clear. We favored a white vision of history ”.

In fact, the current The Dominion Post is a merger (in 2002) of the old Evening Post, created in 1865 in Wellington, and The Dominion, established in 1907, which had championed white immigration laws a century ago. “The Eurocentric vision dominated, and we did not always do good journalism” Katarina Williams still admits.

This real examination of conscience, so rare in the media world, is part of a dynamic launched by the very popular Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to affirm a “Native face” from New Zealand.

There is still an “institutional racism”

The Maori language is, along with English, the other official language in the country. Many MPs are Māori, and for the first time last month, a Māori foreign minister, Nanaia Mahuta, 50, was appointed by Jacinda Ardern.

Compared to its Australian neighbor, “ New Zealand is arguably the country that has been most successful in making peace with its indigenous peoples ”, recognizes David Camroux, himself Australian, researcher at the Center for International Studies and Research of Sciences-Po Paris, specialist in Asia-Pacific.

The fact remains that there is still work to be done, as the protection of Maori lands remains an ongoing struggle. Clashes erupted again last year in Ihumatao, south of Auckland. In addition, last year, a rapporteur for the Committee on Health and Safety pointed to a “Institutional racism” prejudicing the Maori. Which are largely over-represented in poverty indicators.

The unique approach launched by The Dominion Post will help to minimize persistent mistrust, ease tensions and promote reconciliation that is already underway.

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