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Wildly different treatment of Golriz Ghahraman versus Sam Uffindell

In brief
  • Many media pundits say that accused Green Party shoplifter Golriz Ghahraman is the victim and call for empathy and understanding.
  • In contrast, a 38-year-old potential National MP was pilloried for participating in an assault at school when he was 16.
  • Is there a double standard with the media searching for moral mitigation in the Golriz case?

Media’s portrayal of Golriz Ghahraman

Golriz Ghahraman has faced allegations related to shoplifting resulting in multiple charges, which have generated significant media attention. Yet, some observers have noted that the mainstream media in New Zealand appears to be emphasising her perceived victimisation. Calls for empathy and understanding have been prominent, with the narrative often focusing on the challenges faced by female politicians in dealing with gendered abuse. 

While it is acknowledged that women in politics do experience abuse (as do men), there are questions about the timing of this shift in focus and whether it serves to mitigate the implications of the allegations. As journalist Karl Du Fresne astutely observes

“The Greens have copped flak for not front-footing the issue of Ghahraman’s shoplifting, but in reality the controversy has been something of a PR triumph, thanks to the media’s eagerness to justify her conduct.”

Additionally, there has been criticism of media coverage that appears to normalise petty offending. For instance, there’s this recent article from 1News: The rise of middle-class shoplifting and how it became an epidemic in London. Or this one: I was a privileged mother of two when I began shoplifting

Furthermore, there have been attempts to link Ghahraman’s behaviour to her mental distress, raising questions about the role of mental health in the portrayal of political figures.

Comparative analysis with Sam Uffindell

In contrast, Sam Uffindell, a National Party MP, faced different allegations in the past, primarily related to bullying during his school years, which he admitted to. The media’s coverage of Uffindell’s actions included labelling them as “a crime” and referring to the situation as “a scandal,” which brought the National party into ‘disrepute’ who were, in turn, accused of ‘shielding’ Uffindell from the media.

Green MP Golriz Ghahraman compared with MP Sam Uffindell
Was National MP Sam Uffindell treated unfairly in comparison to former Green MP Golriz Ghahraman? Image: Youtube

Note, the word ‘scandal’ doesn’t even appear in the mainstream media’s coverage of Ghahraman’s allegations. Although Ghahraman left the country for a vacation after allegations against her were made, to our knowledge there has been no direct suggestion from the media that the Green Party ever ‘shielded’ the disgraced MP. She has not granted any interviews since being accused and subsequently charged with shoplifting.  

Uffindell’s remarks about doing the shopping for his wife also attracted criticism and were characterised as sexist. Additionally, Uffindell’s situation led to discussions about the National Party’s candidate selection process, and various articles were critical of it.

In Ghahraman’s case, is her previous position as a darling of left-wing media influencing media coverage? You be the judge.

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