A Journalist vs the NZ Army – case study in intimidation



Award winning journalist Jon Stephenson has settled his defamation case against the NZ Defence force.

After the publication of Stephenson’s devastating article ‘Eyes Wide Shut: The Government’s Guilty Secrets in Afghanistan‘ in Metro where Stephenson highlighted possible war crimes by the NZ SAS by handing prisoners over to known torture units, the NZDf went on the attack to discredit and smear 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 when the trial began.

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That original trial against the NZDF bewilderingly ended in a hung jury and it created a message that the context of which this defamation occurred would see the public side with the version of authority – even after that authority admits they were wrong.

The societal  peers of journalism set a self-mutalatingly high threshold for the interests of oligarchic justice by not finding against the NZDF.

Jon Stephenson and NZ journalism deserved better than what they got that day and I only hope the NZDF had to pay a lot of money for the smears they attempted on Stephenson.

There is a deeper issue here though. We have a Journalist who highlighted possible war crime abuses by our soldiers and the response by the Defence Force was to smear and defame the journalist. That this story isn’t leading every media out let explains why the army thought they could get away with this in the first place.


  1. What happened to Jon Stephenson are exactly the kinds of things done in dictatorships. This settlement is in reality an admission of guilt by the NZDF, that is how I see it.

    This is how government agencies operate here, they do similar things to others who dare challenge departments or corporations like WINZ, ACC, Housing NZ and so forth.

    Unfair treatment is denied, mistakes are denied, and lies are presented as explanations, and if any person has the mental, physical and financial support needed to challenge them, they suddenly come and say, “let us talk”, “let us settle this somehow”.

    Hence almost no cases against any government agencies or ministries ever get far, they will come in the end and offer “settlement”, often only after lengthy and difficult “negotiations”.

    So congratulations to Jon, to have stuck to the gun, stuck this out, and at least got such a “settlement”, which informed readers will be able to interpret, as to what it really means.

  2. I think I heard something, in passing, on a Radio NZ news bulletin…

    But nothing else. The NZ Herald story seems to be the only coverage of the event.

    The deafening silence from the MSM is perhaps the most frightening thing I’ve ever seen/heard in all my years in politics in New Zealand. Even Muldoon did not have this kind of power.

    Especially when Metro’s then-editor, Simon Wilson made this spine-chilling statement;

    “I told my boss that we had this story and it was going to be extremely embarrassing for the government – though I didn’t tell them that we were going to publish it without talking to them, because they [the Government] would try and close us down,” Wilson, currently Metro’s editor-at-large, told website The Spinoff.

    If this doesn’t illustrate the tragic state of our ailing democracy in this country, then nothing will.

    I only hope that the producers of The Nation and Q+A might report on this in a one-hour “special”, and that TVNZ or TV3 will broadcast it at primetime, instead of the usual ghettoised weekend morning slots.

    The chances of that are about the same as John Key apologising to Jon Stephenson: nil.

    More and more, New Zealand reminds me of the time I lived in an Eastern European state, prior to 1991.

    • Agreed.

      And all because we’re stupid racist shitheads who don’t give a flying fuck about anyone else coz our houses are getting to be worth more ‘n’ more.

      It is so fucking sinister I no longer quite know what to do about it.

      And they still don’t see it.

      Just shoot me…

      … please?

    • Metro itself covered the settlement as you would expect. From that article I believe the settlement includes a public announcement from NZDF to follow shortly. It’s hard to imagine mainstream ignoring that. The treatment it does get will be interesting however.

  3. There is a strong down-side to any “settlement”, that is the details of the agreement, and with that often also the truth about what actually happened, are expected to be kept confidential.

    So expect rather little to come out, what happened. The NZDF and government will say very little, admit to nothing, and simply repeat like a parrot, the details of the settlement are CONFIDENTIAL.

    That is why government loves settlements behind closed doors. And courts also have to follow High Court rules, stating that settlement comes before going ahead with a proceeding, based on a claim. The aggrieved therefore often has little chance of demanding all that much.

  4. The point still remains:

    Jon is completely vindicated.

    The National Government and NZDF are completely implicated and guilty.

    I am really glad we have Jon over there.

  5. Odd how the NZDF thought it ok to do a smear campaign. Obviously empowered by this National governments examples!

  6. Any credible journalist who does his/her job professionally, acting as the proxy of the people is an absolute asset to the citizenry.

    Any credible journalist who does his/her job professionally, acting as the proxy of the people, is an absolute threat to a dictatorship! Hence the reason msm has not gone all out reporting Jon Stephenson’s expose`of NZDF war crimes.

    The journalist clamp down toll so far …

    Di Boni

    Then there is Nicky Hager …..

    All stopped in their tracks, prevented doing their job informing the people, through political interference.

    The list is increasing …. we are losing our voice at a rapid speed of knots.

    We are at a definite risk of completely losing our democracy if we continue to sit back and take it!

  7. The rot has set in big time and is incredibly dangerous to a healthy functioning society.

    We have taxpayers money being used to promote the National Party and discredit other viable alternatives, it borders on Fascism.

    Mike Hoskings should be sacked from the State Broadcaster TVNZ as he is clearly a right wing cheerleader and does not have a balanced view of NZ politics.

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