Monday, 29 July 2013

Spying on reporters

Now we KNOW it's true!

Defence denies allowing spying on reporter
Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman says he accepts assurances from the Defence Force that no illegal surveillance was carried out on a New Zealand reporter working in Afghanistan.


29 July, 2013

Another journalist, Nicky Hager, claims American spy agencies assisted the Defence Force to monitor the phone calls of Jon Stephenson and has revealed that a military manual describes certain investigative journalists as a subversive threat.

Dr Coleman told reporters on Monday he had discussions with the Defence Force at the weekend. He said it conducted an extensive search of its records and found no evidence of any such surveillance.

He said says there is no record of the United States being involved in any kind of monitoring of Mr Stephenson.

Dr Coleman said he takes the Defence Force at its word, despite the fact it has had to go through several years of records since the story broke at the weekend.
In a statement on Monday, the Acting Chief of Defence Force said he had questioned officers responsible for operations in Afghanistan who told him that no such surveillance took place.

Major General Tim Keating said that included asking a foreign organisation to do it on New Zealand's behalf and the Defence Force identified no information that supported Mr Hager's claims.


Manual to be reviewed


Jonathan Coleman said he has also asked the Defence Force to review the section of the military manual that refers to investigative journalists as a subversive threat, saying that is inappropriate and heavy-handed.

Journalists are included in the manual in a group of non-traditional threats along with pressure groups, criminal elements, dishonest staff and computer hackers. The document calls investigative journalists subversives who pose a similar threat to security as criminals and hackers.

In a statement earlier, Dr Coleman said that the Defence Order had been in place since 2003 under the previous Labour-led government and it was in place to protect soldiers while on operations. But defence minister at the time Phil Goff said the policy is wrong and he would have struck it from the manual had he known about it.

Dr Coleman said he became aware of the reference to journalists only at the weekend. He said that order was issued in 2003, then reissued in 2005 by Sir Bruce Ferguson, the chief of Defence at the time.

Sir Bruce, who criticised the manual on Morning Report on Monday, later said he did not realise that it was issued on his watch and he would never have signed off that part of it had he noticed it. He said it was a busy time for Defence and had no idea what else he may have missed during his four-year tenure.

Earlier, Sir Bruce said he was disquieted by references to journalists as subversives, as the media is essential to a functioning democracy. He said he has never met a journalist who has given him cause for fear or concern and investigative journalists keep people honest.

Nicky Hager said the manual is evidence that the Defence Force regards journalists as a threat and enemy. He toldMorning Report that it treats investigative journalists with hostility and resistance.

Mr Hager said New Zealand soldiers are often sources for journalists and the document illustrates how the military views all leaks as a threat.



Industry comment


Media commentator and former New Zealand Herald editor Gavin Ellis said the Defence Force is besmirching the reputation of journalists. He said there is a huge difference between embarrassing the military and being an actual threat to national security.

Newspaper Publishers Association editorial director Rick Neville said the definition is disturbing and a direct assault on journalists.

The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, which represents many journalists, believes the manual is designed to create fear in the military so that people won't expose issues.

Strategic analyst Paul Buchanan said if Defence is worried about leaks, it should monitor troops - not reporters.



No comments:

Post a Comment