Today’s Herald editorial raises important questions about the police search of Nicky Hager’s home.
In response to a complaint of theft – common old theft – five police officers spent the best part of a day searching the Hager home and taking away everything from computers to an iPod. Not because Hager was considered a “suspect” but because he could be a “witness” to the crime. If every theft complaint made to police resulted in this kind of response, searches under warrants of houses and businesses would be constant and not much else would be achieved by our constabulary.
The Herald goes on to say
The book caused political problems for the National Party and in particular Slater’s friend and former Cabinet minister Judith Collins. Slater claims his messages were stolen and Hager acknowledged they had been hacked, by a person unknown, and given to him unsolicited. It is unlikely anyone else reporting a theft would have resulted in the police raiding the receiver of the stolen property quite so readily.
This is the second election controversy in a row which has resulted in the police obtaining search warrants against media or journalists. Warrants were obtained against Radio New Zealand and TV3 after the “teapot tapes” row in 2011.
It is not a good look for the police or for their political masters. Inconvenient and embarrassing disclosures do not justify police actions to uncover journalistic sources. The effect of such raids is to intimidate such people from approaching media to disclose uncomfortable truths.
The effect on Nicky Hager’s other work could be considerable
Hager says nothing in the seized equipment could lead to the identity of the hacker, known as Rawshark, but he fears for the confidentiality of other, unrelated, sources in his files. He now has the opportunity to convince a judge that the undertaking of confidentiality to his sources, and the importance of that to the public’s right to know, overrides any need for the police to fish through his work on a highly politicised case.
Now a judge will get to decide the matter – the Herald has a view on that as well, but for Nicky Hager it is more time wasted and more expense. Keep those donations coming.