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.
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.