Stephenson beats his critics

Written By: - Date published: 7:03 am, October 2nd, 2015 - 27 comments
Categories: accountability, afghanistan, defence, john key, journalism - Tags: , , ,

In April 2011 respected journalist Jon Stephenson published a piece in Metro – Eyes Wide Shut: The Government’s Guilty Secrets in Afghanistan. In May the Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) issued a press statement challenging several aspects of the article, suggesting

…that Mr Stephenson had not gained entry to the CRU base and interviewed the CRU commander as reported in the article. Mr Stephenson believed these words were interpreted by some members of the public and media as meaning that Mr Stephenson had fabricated his report of the visit to the CRU base and his interview with the commander.

The very next day John Key lined up to personally attack Stephenson:

PM attacks journalist over SAS torture claims

Prime Minister John Key has attacked the credibility of the journalist who has raised questions about New Zealand’s elite soldiers in Afghanistan and whether they were complicit in torture.

Mr Key said the assertions outlined in Metro did not stack up under the NZDF microscope. “I’ve got no reason for NZDF to be lying, and I’ve found [Stephenson] myself personally not to be credible,” Mr Key said.

In September 2012, Stephenson began defamation proceedings the NZDF.

Yesterday the NZDF folded:

Defence Force settle defamation action with journalist

The Defence Force has settled a long-running defamation claim against it by war reporter Jon Stephenson. It has agreed to make a payment to Mr Stephenson and has expressed “regret”. Mr Stephenson had claimed $500,000 in damages. Mr Stephenson this morning said in a statement that he could not comment on the amount. “The sum is confidential, but I can say that I am very happy and consider the outcome a victory.” Settlement was reached last Friday, three years after Mr Stephenson sued.

“I pursued legal action for the simple reason that journalists holding the powers-that-be to account should not be subjected to false claims. It is regrettable that the defendants chose to prolong this matter, at significant cost to the taxpayer, when it could have been resolved much earlier.”

In a statement this afternoon the Defence Force said it and Mr Jones now accept that Mr Stephenson did in fact gain entry to the base and interviewed the CRU commander.”They regret that their statement may have been interpreted as suggesting that this had not happened.

The agreed joint statement is here. As Metro magazine puts it – Metro writer wins big legal case against Defence Force.

Stephenson will be rightly feeling both vindicated and pleased with the outcome – congratulations to him. The NZDF has expressed their regrets, John Key should do the same, but:

A spokesman for the Prime Minister today said Mr Key has nothing to add.

Key has repeatedly attacked journalists (Stephenson, Ambrose, knuckleheads in general) and scientists (Joy). He doesn’t apologise (except to Cameron Slater of course). In this case he really should – both to Stephenson and to the people of NZ.

https://twitter.com/Zagzigger2/status/649450079334469632

27 comments on “Stephenson beats his critics”

  1. Philj 1

    A landmark case. Well done Jon Stephenson, and another untruth from the PM of NZ.

  2. Tracey 2

    And this is one reason why Key is not a leader. Last week one of his supporters said they like him cos he admits his mistakes and changes his mind. I asked for proof of him admitting he had made any “mistakes”> It has not yet been posted.

    ““I’ve got no reason for NZDF to be lying, and I’ve found [Stephenson] myself personally not to be credible,” Mr Key said.”

    It seems the NZDF probably did lie (including to John Key and its Minister) and STephenson is credible.

    This again shows Mr Key’s judgment is wonky, It matters because of decisions he makes on our behalf.

    • BLiP 2.1

      Careful now. You’re assuming the decisions John Key makes *are* on behalf of us.

      • Tracey 2.1.1

        Well 😉 my comments tend to be addressed to those on here who still think he is an honest guy of good economic management.

    • Paul 2.2

      Of course Key is not a leader.
      He is loyal and slavish devotee of the investment banks.

  3. dukeofurl 3

    Key only apologised to Slater because the Orca has kept all his text messages and records all phone calls !

  4. Richard Christie 4

    .They regret that their statement may have been interpreted as suggesting that this had not happened

    weasel words, aka nonapology.

  5. McFlock 5

    Outstanding.

  6. BLiP 6

    This is great news and hearty congratulations to Jon Stephenson.

    It was always obvious Lieutenant General Rhys Jones and John Key defamed Mr Stephenson, I just couldn’t really understand why. The fact that Mr Stephenson had visited the base could have been confirmed by either of them making a single phone call. It would have taken more effort for others to confirm the visit but not that much more. I’ve now come to the conclusion that Lieutenant General Rhys Jones and John Key’s defamation was orchestrated specifically as a personal attack in order to shift media attention away from the fact that New Zealand soldiers were, by rounding up citizens and handing them over to the United States, participating in the practise of torture. Its a conclusion which sickens me.

    I accept that the SAS soldiers were unhappy about the torture, and can easily believe that Lieutenant General Rhys Jones was equally unhappy. It was against the law and completely undermined the stated intention of the military engagement. There they were, in the War On Terror, delivering more terror to an already terrorised population. Insane. Apart from all that, knowingly particpating in the torture of innocents its not good for soul/well being of anyone involved. But when Jon Stephenson handed Rhys Jones a gold-plated opportunity to stop actively participating and to put pressure on for the torture to be stopped, he sought to deny it?

    . . . [deep sigh] . . . But, well, okay, I guess – there are loyalties forged in combat which can, I imagine, result in spontaneous decisions to protect comrades and the good name of the fighting unit which, in the light of the next day, seem ill considered. So there’s that. I suspect Rhys Jones might have been further compromised by the fact that the NZDF has been grovelling before the US Defense Force since 1987 when New Zealand went nuclear free. The US hated that, still does and gives our troops shit for it. It would not have done the then improving relationship any good to have verification of torture popping up in the media. It wouldn’t have done much for maintaining the public’s reluctant tolerance of the war either. So, Rhys Jones fucked up but sorta maybe understandable. Not really.

    So now we come to John Key. This is the person whose primary responsibility and legal duty is to protect New Zealand’s best interests. It is always in New Zealand’s best interests that the law be upheld, and that international agreements, especially something like the Geneva Conventions, not only be complied with, but demonstrably so. When this issue came up, John Key already had a well established reputation as a liar and, among his lies, were lies about our participation in Afghanistan . . .

    New Zealand troops in Afghanistan will only be involved in training, not fighting

    New Zealand troops will be out of Afghanistan by April 2013

    there are only 4 New Zealand SAS soldiers in Bamiyan and all working in the area of logistics and planning only

    Labour did not seek a Parliamentary vote when sending SAS troops into Afghanistan on a combat mission and didn’t even tell New Zealand they were going

    our SAS soldiers were not involved in the Kabul Hotel gunfight

    oh, maybe our SAS soldiers were in the Kabul hotel gun fight but they weren’t wounded by friendly fire

    But this time, rather than actually lying, John Key went for the classic Dirty Politics personal smear. Even with a matter as grievous as the torture of innocent civilians and in circumstances where New Zealand’s international reputation was at stake, and having been presented with an ideal opportunity to limit future agonies visited on the people of Afghanistan, a nation to which he had sent our to protect, he couldn’t even bring himself to ask a minion to double check. Oh, and look, this matter has been all wrapped up and through the MSM at a time when John Key is out of the country. Convenient, or what? Expect mission creep.

    Congratulations, New Zealand. You have a sociopath for a Prime Minister.

  7. Paul G. Buchanan 7

    I suspect that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the unethical behaviour of the NZDF and political leadership in this affair. Remember that there is a MoD involved and the respective ministers then and now (Coleman and Brownlee). There are more officers involved than retired generals Rhys-Jones and Mateparae, some who currently hold senior positions within the NZDF. There is the behaviour of Crown Law to consider. There is the slander on Jon’s character uttered by the PM.

    I can only hope that the terms of the settlement do not prevent Jon from publishing more details of his case, including the way in which the legal process unfolded, the obstacles to discovery encountered, and the extra-curriculars surrounding them.

    Whatever happens, for once in a long time one of the genuine good guys won. Were it that other members of the press corps (Nicky Hager excepted) had the integrity and courage exhibited by Jon both in the field as well as on the home front.

    Kia kaha Jon!

    • Tracey 7.1

      Some things bear repetition

      “I can only hope that the terms of the settlement do not prevent Jon from publishing more details of his case, including the way in which the legal process unfolded, the obstacles to discovery encountered, and the extra-curriculars surrounding them.

      Whatever happens, for once in a long time one of the genuine good guys won. Were it that other members of the press corps (Nicky Hager excepted) had the integrity and courage exhibited by Jon both in the field as well as on the home front.”

      Thanks paul

    • Anne 7.2

      My thanks too Paul Buchanan. As someone who ran into Defence Force intransigence when a civilian on an Air Force base, I can attest to their at least former and some time lack of integrity.

      • Tracey 7.2.1

        There’s also the recent release of GCSB info Anne. It seems it is a success if it is using taxpayer money to fund cyber security for 6 significant companies. It is now looking to extend to ISP’s

        • Anne 7.2.1.1

          Does that mean they can snoop on anyone’s internet communications via the servers? Nice eh! I don’t mind if they can prove beyond a shadow of doubt that their snooping is confined to real and identified national (small n) threats but how are we going to be able to know for sure?

  8. Penny Bright 8

    Congratulations Jon Stephenson – well done.

    ‘Whistle-blowing’ and trying to hold those in public office accountable to the law – doesn’t make you popular with those who have something to hide – is my opinion and experience.

    Penny Bright

  9. RedBaronCV 9

    So two more things = I’m pleased with the result for Jon & if he wanted a confidential settlement I’d be happy with that. He’s been through plenty.

    But if the confidential clause was forced on him by the government (settle and shut up ) then WTF does the governnment think they are doing. Those ministers and state servants have wasted a truckload of taxpayer money when they could simply have checked. co this sort of thing as a lower employee and you’d be down the road.

    Could they give us the figure please and then we can start deducting it from their gold plated salaries & pensions. (head of the defence force is I believe the highest paid civ at around $600K).

    Embarassing politicians is not a crime! Where is the taxpayers union on this waste.

  10. Shona 10

    So happy for Jon Stephenson. Wish I was in NZ right now. Now for Nicky Hager to win as well.

  11. greywarshark 11

    How is Nicky getting on as legal proceedings go inexorably on?
    Here are the latest –

    NZ Herald 23/9/2015
    Nicky Hager interview.
    http://m.nzherald.co.nz/wanganui-chronicle/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503426&objectid=11517449

    TDB – The Daily Blog
    Police plotted to arrest and spy on Nicky Hager – the most interesting parts of 1 year on from Dirty Politics
    By Martyn Bradbury / September 30, 2015 / 51 Comments
    Rating: 3.8/5 (39 votes cast)
    A Journalist targeted by the police for highlighting unethical behaviour by the Government and no other media outlet even pick up on this new revelation.
    Unbelievable.
    – See more at: http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2015/09/30/police-plotted-to-arrest-and-spy-on-nicky-hager-the-most-interesting-parts-of-1-year-on-from-dirty-politics/#sthash.HdsAowze.dpuf

    Here is old tv1 footage to refresh with. Note the difference in body type of Nicky and Whaleoil – Nicky ascetic-looking and Whaleoil hedonistic and self-indulgent.
    https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/nicky-hager-i-d-go-to-jail-before-revealing-dirty-politics-source-6099688

    There are some whaleoil headings on google but I can’t remember the link which gives you access to them without personally visiting his site. There is one.

    The defence donation fund for Nicky got up to $50,000 at 12 Oct 2014.

    Donations still rolling in for Hager

    Part of the legal actions Nicky has been involved in is covered under this post of July 2015. I’ve put these links in just to refresh on the past. Haven’t time for any else.

    Hager v Attorney General & Dirty Politics

  12. greywarshark 12

    While we are thinking about the Defence Force taking responsibility and apologising let us remember the infamous Te Rata Bridge case which they fought tooth and nail. The citizens at the mercy of the Force did not come out of it whole. The matter was not settled till 2009.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Te_Rata_Bridge

  13. Morrissey 13

    It’s a gross misnomer to refer to the people who defamed and traduced Jon Stephenson by the honorable title of “critics”.

    A critic is someone who thoroughly and knowledgeably scrutinises someone’s work. Key and Jones are not critics. They are nothing more than liars.

  14. Ross 14

    The NZDF’s legal costs were $600,000. The settlement was possibly another 100-200k.

    Jordan Williams and David Farrar will be all over this gross waste of taxpayers’ money.

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