web analytics
The Standard

Jon Stephenson replies to critics

Written By: - Date published: 11:49 am, May 12th, 2011 - 12 comments
Categories: afghanistan, john key, us politics, war - Tags: , ,

When John Key hears bad news he attacks the credibility of the source. On BBC Interview show HardTalk, confronted with the science on our polluted rivers, he said it was just one person’s opinion that he didn’t believe. When journalist Jon Stephenson publised “Eyes wide shut” (Metro magazine in May) on the SAS links with the mistreatment of prisoners in Afghanistan, Key said “I’ve got no reason for NZDF to be lying, and I’ve found [Stephenson] myself personally not to be credible” (see “Is The PM’s ‘Shoot The Messenger’ Attack A Smokescreen?”). Now Jon Stephenson has replied to his critics himself, in detail:

Jon Stephenson re: Take No Prisoners (Apr 27)

Statement by journalist Jon Stephenson

On 2 May, chief of defence force Lieutenant-General Rhys Jones issued a media statement about my article Eyes Wide Shut, published in the May edition of Metro magazine. That statement makes a number of claims that I believe to be misleading or false, and which I respond to below.

Eyes Wide Shut and last week’s 60 Minutes programme deal with the issue of New Zealand’s involvement and complicity in the transfer of detainees to torture in Afghanistan. It is important to point out that neither the Metro article nor the 60 Minutes story were intended as an attack on the SAS but to question the policy of successive governments and the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF). Indeed, much of the information in these stories was provided by present and former members of the NZDF.

The Metro article is around 8,000 words long, and contains a huge number of facts and extensive first-hand testimony. The overwhelming majority of this information is not contested by the NZDF – including the claim that US forces in Afghanistan mistreated and in some cases tortured prisoners that the SAS transferred to them in 2002 (the so-called Band e Timur raid).

Indeed, Defence Minister Wayne Mapp admitted to 60 Minutes that New Zealand SAS troopers “saw and heard of abuse” and complained about it to the Americans – “and they did so not once, but twice.” Mapp confirmed that again when he told Parliament this week that US forces mistreated prisoners the SAS transferred to them in 2002.

The New Zealand SAS has a well-deserved reputation for professional excellence. As I have stated repeatedly in articles and commentary, there is no evidence I am aware of that suggests they have in any way been directly involved in the mistreatment and torture of detainees.

This is not a story about wrong-doing by rank-and-file members of the SAS. It is a story about a failure of leadership at a senior level in the NZDF and government. SAS troopers have been put in the position of detaining people who have been sent to facilities with a history of mistreatment and torture.

That situation continues today. Mapp admitted this week in Parliament that the SAS had since 2009 been involved on 24 occasions when detainees were taken and transferred to Afghan authorities. Those authorities have a well-established record for mistreatment and torture.

Asked last year if people the SAS had been involved in detaining had been sent to facilities where they might have been tortured, Mapp said: “You can’t rule that out.”He said it was “clearly a concern” that the government had put SAS members in a situation where that could happen.

Mapp said that he had ordered a report into SAS involvement in detainee transfers in Afghanistan, and undertook to make that report public. Nine months later, he has not done so. Amnesty International, one of the world’s leading human rights organisations, has expressed deep concern about our government’s policy on detainee transfers, and has asked Mapp on several occasions to release this report. The minister has ignored them.

Meanwhile, after repeated claims that the SAS was not directly involved in taking detainees in Afghanistan, Mapp was forced to admit in Parliament this week that the SAS had directly taken a prisoner in January, and that this prisoner had been transferred to the Bagram detention centre – a centre that has a notorious record for the mistreatment and torture of prisoners.

Labour Party leader Phil Goff this week joined the Green Party in calling for an inquiry into issues surrounding the transfer of prisoners by the SAS to US and Afghan authorities. I strongly support this. My experience of the NZDF has convinced me that while most New Zealand soldiers are honorable, there are serious problems within NZDF culture at a higher level, and I am not confident the NZDF can be relied on to investigate itself.

Stephenson goes on to refute General Jones’ media statement point by point, in detail, concluding:

There are many examples of inconsistent and contradictory statements – none of which the defence force has adequately explained.

Jon Stephenson

Stephenson is clearly not going to be intimidated or brushed off. This issue is not going to go away, and at the moment Stephenson is looking a whole lot more credible than his critics, John Key included. Instead of trying to attack Stephenson, the government should be investigating his claims fully. With the death of Osama and with America’s war in Afghanistan looking increasingly pointless, they should bring our troops home.

12 comments on “Jon Stephenson replies to critics”

  1. Bill 1

    I caught the end of 60 minutes where Mike McRobert’s end piece was unequivocal in its defense of Jon Stephenson as a reputable and reliable reporter.

    I thought it unusual for a presenter to be so up front and (some might argue) partisan.

    For example, I can’t remember Nicky Hagar being defended in the same fashion. In that instance, reporting was more dispassionate and therefore (some might argue) dishonest.

  2. ianmac 2

    This is an important issue as it questions the credibility of the Government and of our future GG. One way or another it should be resolved. But they might decide on an Enquiry to be completed in say 24 or 36 months time. Kick for touch will they?
    Well done Jon.

  3. Ron 3

    More to the point – where are the journos hounding the PM about this?
    I say again – this had been the labour govt we never would heard the end of it.
    Tory media again.

  4. Tiger Mountain 4

    Rather sad that Jon has to cover his own rear on this, there have been a few honourable exceptions among journos but not many, publically at least.

    • did anyone investigate Key’s slurred claim that Jon Stephenson impersonated Duncan Garner one night in a call to him? Shonkey allegedly attracts late night calls (Williams, Nth shore mayor).

    • Mataparae for GG? no way, enquiry at the very least.

    • Bring the NZ defence personnel home from Afghanistan now

  5. ron 5

    Just heard on the radio that Stephenson might even sue Key. True?

    • Carol 5.1

      http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/75060/journalist-considers-legal-action-over-sas-article

      The journalist behind an article claiming New Zealand elite troops put put prisoners at risk of torture is considering taking legal action against the head of the Defence Force and the Prime Minister.


      Mr Stephenson says he wrote to General Jones on Wednesday, asking him to withdraw his comments and apologise.

      He says if General Jones does this, he will not take the matter further.

      • Pascal's bookie 5.1.1

        And I like the way he basically ignored Key’s comments as ‘political’, but still leaves the threat to sue on the table.

        It’s stand up or back down time Key.

  6. Stephenson is one of the few NZ journalists I would trust. His professional reputation is impeccable.
    Other NZ journalists know how professional Stephenson is, so when the less than impeccable John Key attacks him for telling the truth, a lot of journalists will take note and remember that.
    Key picked a very unwise target to try and bully in this instance.

    • ianmac 6.1

      Yes +1

    • Morrissey 6.2

      Gordon Campbell and Nicky Hager are in the same class as Stephenson. Patrick Gower on TV3 is sharp and tenacious, and seems much more informed than anyone else on television, although that is almost damning him with faint praise.

      Otherwise…in New Zealand, there is nobody.

  7. Vicky32 7

    I have always respected Jon Stephenson since his was the only voice in the Sunday Star-Times back in 2003, that was willing to tell the truth about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq…

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Meth ring under Serco’s nose
    The news that two Serco inmates have been arrested for helping to run a methamphetamine ring from prison should be the final straw and see their contract cancelled, says Labour’s Corrections Spokesperson Kelvin Davis. “National has stood by Serco despite… ...
    5 hours ago
  • Ministers failing women and their own targets
    New figures showing just five Ministers have met the Government’s own reduced targets for appointing women to state sector boards is evidence National is failing Kiwi women, Labour’s Women’s Affairs spokesperson Sue Moroney says. “The Ministry for Women’s 2015 Gender… ...
    5 hours ago
  • Charges up for some as funding up for grabs
    A proposal being considered by the Government would see some people having to pay more for health care and district health boards forced to fight amongst themselves to fund regional health services, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says “Information leaked… ...
    9 hours ago
  • Stop experimenting on kids
    The trouble with the Charter school model is that it is a publicly funded experiment on children. The National Government has consistently put its desire to open charter schools ahead of the safety of the children in them, ignoring repeated… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    1 day ago
  • Bank puts the squeeze on mid Canterbury farmers
    News that an unnamed bank in Ashburton has put a receiver on notice over financially vulnerable farmers will send a chill through rural New Zealand, says Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson. “The Government needs to work with  New Zealand’s banks… ...
    1 day ago
  • Key is trading away New Zealand land and homes
    John Key yesterday admitted what National dishonestly refused to confirm in Parliament last week – he is trading away New Zealand’s right to control who buys our homes and land, says Opposition leader Andrew Little. “The Prime Minister must now… ...
    1 day ago
  • Razor gang takes scalpel to health
    Plans by the Government to take a scalpel to democratically elected health boards are deceitful and underhand, coming just months after an election during which they were never signalled, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says “Leaked documents reveals a radical… ...
    1 day ago
  • Spin lines show a department in chaos
    Corrections Spin Doctors sending their place holder lines to journalists instead of responding to serious allegations shows the scale of chaos at the department over the Serco scandal, says Labour’s Corrections Spokesperson Kelvin Davis. “As more and more serious allegations… ...
    3 days ago
  • Court ruling shows law should never have been passed
    A High Court ruling that a law banning prisoners from voting is inconsistent with a properly functioning democracy should be a wake-up call for the Government, Labour’s Justice spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says. In an unprecedented ruling Justice Paul Heath has… ...
    4 days ago
  • Judicial Review Gamble Pays Off for Problem Gambling Foundation
    Congratulations are due to the Problem Gambling Foundation (PGFNZ) who have won their legal case around how the Ministry of Health decided to award their contracts for problem gambling services to another service provider. Congratulations are due not just for… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    4 days ago
  • Environmental Protection Agency appoints GE advocate as new CEO
    This week, the Environmental Protection Authority Amendment Bill passed its first reading in Parliament. The Bill puts protection of the environment into the core purpose of the Environmental Protection Authority. This month, Dr Allan Freeth, the former Chief Executive of… ...
    GreensBy Steffan Browning MP
    4 days ago
  • Charanpreet Dhaliwal death demands genuine health and safety reform
    The killing of a security guard on his first night on the job is exactly the kind of incident that National’s watered-down health and safety bill won’t prevent, says Te Atatu MP Phil Twyford. The coronial inquest into 22-year-old Charanpreet… ...
    4 days ago
  • Arbitrary sanctions hit children hardest
    Increasing numbers of single parents are being penalised under a regime that is overly focussed on sanctions rather than getting more people into work, Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni says. “Figures, obtained through Parliamentary questions show 3000 more sanctions,… ...
    4 days ago
  • Hekia just won’t face the facts
    Hekia Parata’s decision to keep troubled Whangaruru Charter school open despite being presented with a catalogue of failure defies belief, goes against official advice and breaks a Government promise to close these schools if they were failing, says Labour’s Education… ...
    4 days ago
  • No more silent witnesses
    Yesterday I attended the launch of a new initiative developed by and for Asian, Middle eastern and African youth to support young people to name and get support if there is domestic violence at home. The impact on children of… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    4 days ago
  • Single Use Plastic Bags campaign – Some wins and some green-washing
    As we near the end of Plastic Free July I’m nearing the conclusion of my Say No To Plastic Bag tour when I will have completed all 30 of my public meetings. The campaign was designed to work with community… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    4 days ago
  • Single Use Plastic Bags campaign – Some wins and some green-washing
    As we near the end of Plastic Free July I’m nearing the conclusion of my Say No To Plastic Bag tour when I will have completed all 30 of my public meetings. The campaign was designed to work with community… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    4 days ago
  • Minister must take responsibility for problem gambling debacle
    The Government’s handling of the Problem Gambling Foundation’s axing in a cost-cutting exercise has been ham-fisted and harmful to some of the most vulnerable people in society, Associate Health Labour spokesperson David Clark says.“Today’s court ruling overturning the axing of… ...
    5 days ago
  • Labour will not support TPP if it undermines NZ sovereignty
    The Labour Party will not support the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement unless key protections for New Zealanders are met, Opposition leader Andrew Little says.“Labour supports free trade. However, we will not support a TPP agreement that undermines New Zealand’s sovereignty. ...
    5 days ago
  • Coleman can’t ignore latest warnings
    Resident doctors have advised that a severe staffing shortage at North Shore Hospital is putting patients’ lives at risk, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. “They say a mismatch between staffing levels and patient workloads at North Shore has… ...
    5 days ago
  • ACC must remove barriers to appeals
    The Government must prioritise removing barriers to justice for ACC claimants following a damning report by Acclaim Otago, Labour’s ACC spokesperson Sue Moroney says. “ACC Minister Nikki Kaye must urgently scrap her flawed plan to remove claimant’s right to redress… ...
    5 days ago
  • Six months’ paid parental leave back on the agenda
    Six months’ paid parental leave is back on the agenda and a step closer to reality for Kiwi parents after Labour’s new Member’s Bill was pulled from today’s ballot, the Bill’s sponsor and Labour MP Sue Moroney says. “My Bill… ...
    5 days ago
  • Sole parents at risk of having no income
    New requirements for sole parents to undertake a reapplication process after a year is likely to mean a large number will face benefit cancellations, but not because they have obtained work, Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni says. “Increasing numbers… ...
    5 days ago
  • Juking the Welfare Stats Again
    Last week the government’s major initiative to combat child poverty (a paltry $25 increase) was exposed for what it is, a lie. The Government, through the Budget this year, claims to be engaging in the child poverty debate, but instead,… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    5 days ago
  • OCR rate cut a result of flagging economy
    The Reserve Bank's decision to cut the Official Cash Rate to 3 per cent shows there is no encore for the so-called 'rock star' economy, says Labour's Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson.   "Today's interest rate cut comes off the back… ...
    5 days ago
  • Reboot to an innovation economy, an Internet economy and a clean economy
    In my short 33 years on this planet we’ve seen phenomenal technological, economic and social change, and it’s realistic to expect the next 33 will see even more, even faster change. You can see it in the non-descript warehouse near… ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes MP
    6 days ago
  • Bill that puts the environment into the EPA passes first hurdle
    A Bill that puts the environment squarely into legislation governing the Environmental Protection Authority passed its first reading today, says Meka Whaitiri.  “I introduced this member’s bill as the current law doesn’t actually make protecting the environment a goal of… ...
    6 days ago
  • Key’s KiwiSaver deception exposed
    KiwiSaver statistics released today expose John Key's claim that the cutting of the kickstart payment "will not make a blind bit of difference to the number of people who join KiwiSaver” to be duplicitous, says Labour Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson.  “Official… ...
    6 days ago
  • Minimum Wage Amendment Bill to protect contractors
    All New Zealanders should be treated fairly at work. Currently, the law allows non-employment relationships to be used to get around the minimum wage. This is unfair, says Labour MP David Parker. “The Minimum Wage (Contractor Remuneration) Amendment Bill, a… ...
    6 days ago
  • Bill raises bar to protect Kiwi farmland
    The Government’s rubber-stamping of every one of the nearly 400 applications from overseas investors to buy New Zealand farm land over the last three years proves tougher laws are needed, Labour MP Phil Goff says. “In the last term of… ...
    6 days ago
  • Costly flag referendum should be dumped
    John Key must ditch the flag referendum before any more taxpayer money is wasted, Opposition Leader Andrew Little says. “Millions of dollars could be saved if the Prime Minister called a halt to this hugely expensive, and highly unpopular, vanity… ...
    6 days ago
  • Nats letting Serco off scot free
    Government members have prevented Parliament’s Law and Order select committee from getting answers out of a senior Serco director about the fight clubs being run at Mt Eden prisons, says Labour’s Corrections Spokesperson Kelvin Davis. “At today’s Law and Order… ...
    6 days ago
  • Charter school experiment turns into shambles
    The National Government’s charter school experiment has descended into chaos and it’s time for Hekia Parata to stop trying to cover up the full extent of the problems, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. “The Education Minister must release all… ...
    6 days ago
  • Disconnect between rates and income must be fixed
    Local Government New Zealand’s 10 Point Plan is a chance to stop the widening chasm between the rates some households are charged and their ability to pay, Labour’s Local Government spokesperson Su’a William Sio says. “There is a huge disconnect… ...
    1 week ago
  • Parole and ‘surviving the first year’
    “Intensive psychological treatment and early release to parole is far more effective at reducing reoffending among high risk prisoners than serving out the full prison sentence.” That’s reportedly the finding of Surviving the First Year, a recently-released study into Corrections’… ...
    GreensBy David Clendon MP
    1 week ago
  • Parole and ‘surviving the first year’
    “Intensive psychological treatment and early release to parole is far more effective at reducing reoffending among high risk prisoners than serving out the full prison sentence.” That’s reportedly the finding of Surviving the First Year, a recently-released study into Corrections’… ...
    GreensBy David Clendon MP
    1 week ago
  • If it’s good enough for Lake Taupō…
    Nick Smith supports helping farmers transition away from dairying and agrees we must set nitrogen caps that limit the number of animals on farms. He says this strategy is “world leading”. However we need action and pressure from him, on to… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    1 week ago
  • The importance of swamp kauri for climate research
    As early as 2010, international climate scientists were expressing concern at the rate of ancient swamp kauri extraction in Northland. Swamp kauri provides one of the best sources in the world for measuring climate fluctuations over the last 30,000 years.… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    1 week ago
  • Govt needs to heed warnings on med students
    The Government is being urged to act on advice it has received about the negative impact its seven year study cap will have on hundreds of medical students, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. “The 7EFTS lifetime limit unfairly disadvantages… ...
    1 week ago
  • Ministers at sea over overseas buyers register
    The Prime Minister and three of his ministers are at odds over the collection of information about offshore speculators buying our houses and seem to be making things up as they go, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “John Key… ...
    1 week ago
  • Time for Key to ditch the King Canute routine
    With the economic mood in New Zealand souring, it is time for John Key to admit reality and drop the King Canute approach, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson.  “John Key is claiming that 95 per cent of the economy… ...
    1 week ago
  • Botched contract leads to charter school rort
    A botched Government contract has allowed an Auckland charter school to double dip by getting funding for students it has accommodated for free, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. “Information received by Labour through written Parliamentary questions show the Ministry… ...
    1 week ago
  • Flawed system costs $3 million and counting
    New figures obtained* by Labour show the Government’s shambolic ACC car registration levy system has cost more than $3 million to implement and the costs are set to escalate, Labour's ACC spokesperson Sue Moroney says. “That’s $3 million that could… ...
    1 week ago
  • Radio NZ facing death by 1000 cuts
    The National Government’s seven year funding freeze on Radio New Zealand has put its vital public broadcasting services in serious jeopardy, Labour’s Broadcasting spokesperson Clare Curran says. "The axing of 20 jobs at our only publicly funded broadcaster shows the… ...
    1 week ago
  • Trades funding cut short-sighted
      Short-sighted funding cuts could lead to fewer school students learning trades, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. "Schools are now being financially penalised for enrolling students in trades academies. They could lose teachers and school management positions as a… ...
    1 week ago
  • The rock star economy is well out of tune
    The bad news is mounting for the economy with job ads falling in June, suggesting employment is taking a hit, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “ANZs Job Ads data shows job advertising fell 0.6 per cent in June and is… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Treasury latest to withhold Saudi sheep scandal information
    The Labour Party will today lodge a complaint with the Ombudsman after the Treasury became the latest government department to withhold information on the Saudi sheep scandal. Labour’s Trade and Export Growth spokesperson David Parker says the Government has been… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Calls to extend life-saving training
    The Government must ensure all health sector workers are not only be trained to routinely check for medical identification bracelets but have access to critical online patient information, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. “The tragic death of an 80-year-old… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Making business tax more flexible
    Labour is launching a new proposal to give businesses more flexibility and control over when they pay their tax, Opposition Leader Andrew Little announced today. “Today I am launching a discussion document to give businesses the option of paying their… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • ICT graduates a drop in the sector’s empty bucket
    The Government’s ICT graduate schools announced today will only train a tiny fraction of the workers the sector is crying out for, Labour’s Tertiary Education spokesperson David Cunliffe says. “The industry estimates it has a shortage of 10,000 skilled workers,… ...
    2 weeks ago

Public service advertisements by The Standard

Current CO2 level in the atmosphere