NZ media gullible in reports on terrorism

By   /   November 7, 2016  /   9 Comments

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The first rule of journalism is that you can’t accept the word of a public official unless there is evidence to back it up. However, this principle goes out the window when there are allegations of a terrorist threat, as we’ve seen this past week.


The first rule of journalism is that you can’t accept the word of a public official unless there is evidence to back it up.  However, this principle goes out the window when there are allegations of a terrorist threat, as we’ve seen this past week.

An article in the NZ Herald (4 November) claimed that “concrete evidence has emerged that there has been an attempt to carry out a terrorist attack on New Zealand soil.”  TV3’s Newshub was of the view that “a planned terrorist attack on New Zealand soil has been foiled by our spy agency.”

What was the evidence for this “planned terrorist attack”? It was a mere six words in a National Security System (NSS) Handbook, indicating that one of the topics discussed by security officials was a “threat of a domestic terrorist incident.” Nothing more.

We have no information as to whether this was a real threat, an overblown threat, a false alarm, or somebody being defined as a threat when they really weren’t, like Algerian refugee Ahmed Zaoui was in the early 2000s.

Spy bosses and media bosses both have an interest in exaggerating the “terrorist threat” to New Zealand. The extra resources the spy agencies have been granted since 2001 were to deal with a terrorist threat which barely exists. SIS and GCSB jobs could be at risk if New Zealanders come to realise this. For the media “terrorist threat” headlines boost audience numbers and advertising revenue.

To beef out their “terrorist threat” stories our media often go to security commentators like Paul Buchanan to promote various scenarios, even if there are no actual facts to back up these scenarios. These commentators generally give more credibility to the utterances of spy agencies than they deserve.

For example, Paul Buchanan rightly noted on Radio NZ that no one had been arrested or charged in relation to the alleged “threat of a domestic terrorist incident”. But he didn’t draw the most obvious conclusion, that maybe it wasn’t a real threat, or was overblown. Instead he took it as real and hypothesized the perhaps it was “thwarted so early that the authorities were not able to gather evidence that they could present to the court, and if that is the case, where are the suspects now?”

We should always remember that when the spy agencies have talked about specific cases – such as Ahmed Zaoui or “jihadi brides” supposedly leaving New Zealand – they’ve generally had it wrong.

[The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security’s annual report refers to one case of warrantless surveillance ordered under a “terrorism” clause in the SIS Act. A warrant was later granted for this particular surveillance. It is unclear whether that SIS investigation uncovered any serious problem, or whether it had any relation to the alleged “threat of a domestic terrorist incident” referred to NSS Handbook, as discussed above. As usual, we are kept in the dark.]

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  1. Mike in Auckland says:

    Yes, our journalists are not very good at doing their work. And also do they rather flock around the Prime Minister or other Ministers, to seek their opinion and comments, than to do some independent study of facts and recorded, available statistics.

    I saw this again, when Andrew Little did hold his speech yesterday, on a kind of proposed new employment scheme for young people not in work and training. Instead of asking some experts, they went straight to Steven Joyce for his opinion and judgment.

    So it is with comments on terrorism. Perhaps there is the odd journalist that may bother doing some digging, and more, but they are few and far between these days.

    With changes to the Official Information Act and other laws, the government does in the meantime ensure that there are less and less chances to be held to account by transparency.

    Even the Ombudsman cannot do much there, as he has to work with the law that we have, and the Ombudsmen Act is a rather weak law, offering little if any measures and Ombudsman can take (except reporting and recommending, which is NOT binding to government), and much discretion for the Ombudsmen to do a bit, or nothing at all.

    This government can simply release a few words about a terror “threat” and the media is busy reporting on it, without checking, just another day in John Keys New Zealand Inc 2016.

  2. Helena says:

    Maybe our ex-bankster jonkey is protecting you know who from you know what:

  3. Blake says:

    The link below is the most recent Julian Assange interview on RT focusing on some of what you are writing about here.
    Extremely important and urgent information to get out.

    Assange confirms that none of this leaks or info came from Russia so this proves AGAIN that Hillary was lying which is no surprise to many of us.

  4. Afewknowthetruth says:

    Why pretend the NZ mainstream media has any interest in reporting facts or delivering accurate commentary?

    Why pretend NZ mainstream media has ANY credibility?

    The first priority of the mainstream media in the western world is to conceal the truth; the second priority is to deliver propaganda (usually centred on the ability of those ‘in authority’ to protect the masses and the ability of corporations to provide solutions to problems); the third priority is to obfuscate and confuse readers/listeners; the fourth priority is to distract readers/listeners and provide ‘happy ever after’ narratives.

    Sometimes the order of those priorities is changed.

    • Blake says:

      EXACTLY – Totally agree.
      Now we will be intentionally distracted with the same MSM – BS about made up terrorist attacks right here in good ole NZ – a fear mongering frenzy that has been in full swing in the US for decades. Anyone needing more guns to protect yourselves from this fictitious fear based madness then head to Auckland on Nov. 17 and pick up some automatic machine guns and other war toys. Then you’ll be safe and then donky and the arms dealers and US navy will plan their next visit here with even more war ships and nuclear submarines and tons more arms dealers. Go Go Go ! !

  5. Any truth to the rumour Henry is leaving TV3? If true congrats NZ. Pour yourself a congratulatory beverage. You earned it