Asia - Pacific
New Zealand
Index 2024
19/ 180
Score : 79.72
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Index 2023
13/ 180
Score : 84.23
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New Zealand is a model for public interest journalism. Its inhabitants enjoy a high degree of press freedom, influenced by market regulation, favourable legal precedents and respect for diversity and the indigenous Māori in a multicultural environment. However, a sharp rise in online abuse of journalists has threatened “mob censorship”.

Media landscape

Following serious concerns in the late 2010s about media pluralism and editorial independence, the situation has improved in large part due to the 2020 antitrust laws. The country’s leading news site, Stuff, was thus able to regain its financial, and therefore editorial, independence after previously being targeted for takeover by major companies. It now faces competition from other online news sites, including The Spinoff and Newsroom. The country’s leading daily, The New Zealand Herald, is owned by New Zealand Media and Entertainment (NZME), which also owns Newstalk ZB radio. Broadcasting is dominated by two state-owned media outlets, Television New Zealand, which operates under a broadcasting charter, and Radio NZ. The latest of many attempts to merge the two entities was rejected in 2022 as it was believed that the quest for economic synergies posed too much of a threat to news quality.

Political context

Founded in 1852, New Zealand’s democratic system establishes a strict separation between the executive branch and the press, recognized as a bulwark of the rule of law and defence of the public interest. The New Zealand Media Council and the Public Broadcasting Standards Authority provide journalists with two self-regulatory agencies whose members are appointed in a process that guarantees their independence.

Legal framework

In the absence of a written constitution and specific laws on the subject, freedom of the press is not legally guaranteed. However, legal precedent establishes that litigation involving the media, such as defamation cases, must be tried in civil court or, as most often occurs, settled out of court. For years, journalists have demanded a review of the 1982 Official Information Act (OIA), designed to guarantee government transparency. In fact, the law grants government agencies excessive time periods to respond to reporters’ requests and forces news outlets to pay hundreds of dollars to obtain public information. 

Economic context

The financial viability of many media outlets was seriously threatened by the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to the loss of some 700 jobs in the sector. In response, the government announced the release of 55 million New Zealand dollars (33 million euros) in aid over three years, under the framework of a Public Interest Journalism Fund.

Sociocultural context

New Zealand society’s multiculturalism is part of its DNA, with mutual recognition between the Māori and European populations enshrined in the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi. However, the nation’s bicultural dimension is not completely reflected in the media, which are still dominated by the English-language press. A rebalancing is gradually taking place, as evidenced by the success of the Māori Television network and many Māori-language programmes on mainstream media, such as Te karere, The Hui and Te Ao. New Zealand media also play a role as a regional communications centre for other South Pacific nations, via Tagata Pasifika, Pacific Media Network and others.


Journalists work in an environment free from violence and intimidation, although they increasingly face online harassment. The working conditions became tougher in early 2022 when, during protests against Covid-19 restrictions and the month-long “siege” of parliament, journalists were subjected to violence, insults and death threats, which are otherwise extremely rare on the archipelago. A 2023 study found that high rates of violence and threats against at journalists put the country at risk of “mob censorship” – citizen vigilantism seeking to “discipline” journalism. Women journalists have been the most affected by online abuse.