This decision is a terrible day for those Journalists brave enough to speak truth to power.
What the NZDF did to Stephenson in the wake of Stephenson’s well researched article in Metro highlighting our SAS handing Afghan civilians over to known torture units was a clear smear campaign to discredit him rather than engage with any of the issues he had raised.
We know the NZDF have manipulated the spin within a pretty compliant media regarding our true role in Afghanistan, this disinformation campaign aimed at Stephenson was simply an extension of that media management.
Claiming Stephenson never visited the base or spoke to who he had claimed to have spoken to allowed the Military to side-step having to engage in allegations that were effectively a breach of the Geneva Convention.
Committing war crimes tends to be a dampener on domestic support.
This case was an attempt to put those tactics up on trial and show them for what there were, defamation with malice. After showing evidence of Stephenson visiting the base and talking to the Commander, Lieutenant General Rhys Jones admitted that Stephenson visited the base and spoke to the commander.
Let’s stress that point, Lieutenant General Rhys Jones admitted during the trial that what he had said was not true. The NZDF still had up on their website the claims Stephenson had never visited the base or spoken to the commander as little as last week.
This hung jury is a message that the context of which this defamation occurred will side with the version of authority even after that authority admits they were wrong.
The peers of journalists have set a self-mutalatingly high threshold for the interests of oligarchic justice.
Jon Stephenson and NZ journalism deserved better than what they got today and we’re the poorer for it.