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Two cartoons printed in New Zealand South Island papers have been branded racist towards Maoris and Polynesians.

The cartoons, by Al Nisbett, were printed in the Marlborough Express and The Press and have been criticised on social networks.

The first showed a group of dark-skinned adults in school uniforms taking advantage of the breakfast in schools programme to save money for 'cigarettes, alcohol and pokies'.



The second depicts a Maori or Polynesian family talking about how great the free breakfast programme would be to help them ease their poverty, while sitting in front of lottery tickets, cigarettes and empty beer cans.

New Zealand’s Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy called the cartoons potentially offensive, but not racist.

In a press conference held today, Devoy said that the cartoons did not breach the level considered to be racist under the Human Rights Act.

She said she would be speaking with the Marlborough Express Editor, Steve Mason. She added that she didn’t expect the editors of either paper to apologise for the cartoon unless they felt they had been wrong in printing them.

Devoy said the cartoon perpetuated the negative stereotypes of specific populations that continue to “stigmatise people who live in poverty, particularly children”.

But she said they weren’t considered racist under the Human Rights Act as they didn’t incite racial disharmony.

"We have the right to freedom of expression and we have the right to freedom of speech and people can say what they like and print what they like, even if we find it really offensive,” she added. 

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Kiwi newspaper cartoons slammed as 'racist' on social media
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