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Wednesday, 5 February, 2003, 12:59 GMT
Maori media row over NZ day
Maori men doing haka dance
Maoris are fighting to keep their customs alive
Maori leaders have banned mainstream media from covering this year's official celebrations of New Zealand National Day.

Maori elder Bruce Gregory of the Ngapuhi tribe said leaders felt the non-Maori media had engaged in "adverse reporting" at previous 6 February commemorations

WAITANGI
Home to National Day celebrations
Owned by Maori Ngapuhi tribe
Site of signing of 1840 land rights treaty
National Day, or Waitangi Day, marks the signing of the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi which granted sovereignty to the British and is frequently marked by Maori protests against land loss and cultural harm.

Mr Gregory said any non-Maori media who approached participants at Thursday's ceremony, or took photos, would be escorted from the grounds.

"There is nothing to stop people coming on (to the grounds), but once they start clicking their cameras, they will get the short shrift," he said.

New Zealand Herald editor-in-chief Gavin Ellis said the ban was a threat to media freedom.

"I regard it as a national event and if it is to remain a national event as opposed to a small, private ceremony for the marae (Maori meeting ground) and its inhabitants alone, then it should be and must open to all media," Mr Ellis said.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said it set "an unfortunate precedent".

Although Maori culture is enjoying a renaissance in New Zealand, Maoris are the least healthy and educated of the country's population.

The celebrations are held at Waitangi, 900 kilometres (562 miles) northeast of the capital, Wellington. Waitangi is owned by the Maori Ngapuhi tribe, who can control who is allowed in.

See also:

04 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
25 Oct 02 | Correspondent
04 Dec 01 | Film
14 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
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