Wellington (New Zealand), Oct. 8 (ANI): New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said on Friday that while he was powerless to act against a television anchor who had made "gratuitous and insulting" race remarks about Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, he accepted that it was a " regrettable abuse of freedom of speech".
Responding to the Indian Government's strong protest issued via a demarche to New Zealand's High Commissioner to India Rupert Holborow on Thursday, McCully said the government per say could do nothing about anchor Paul Henry's mockery of Dikshit, but his company could.
McCully said he would contact New Delhi to assure it that "the comments were the actions of one person, made in a country in which freedom of speech is an important foundation principle".
McCully, however, made it clear to India that under New Zealand law, the broadcaster operated independently of government.
"Any action against Mr. Henry is entirely a matter for the company, or for the Broadcasting Standards Authority," the foreign minister said in a statement.
On Thursday, High Commissioner Holborow issued an apology after being summoned to the Indian foreign ministry.
Holborow said Henry's comments were "culturally insensitive, inappropriate and vulgar" and did not represent the view of the New Zealand people.
The New Zealand Commonwealth Games team's chef de mission, Dave Currie, said Henry's remarks were extraordinarily disappointing.
Currie told Radio NZ he did not know if New Zealand's athletes would suffer a backlash from crowds in Delhi over the controversy, which was an unwelcome distraction as they tried to concentrate on sport.
Henry originally made his remarks about Dikshit last Friday but they passed largely unnoticed until TVNZ included the footage in its website's highlights section. Since then, it has been viewed more than 300,000 times on youtube.com.
Henry is already serving a two-week suspension over comments on Monday questioning whether Governor General Anand Satyanand, who was born in Auckland to Indo-Fijian parents, was a proper New Zealander. (ANI)