Journalists not 'subversives': Goff

MICHAEL DALY
Last updated 09:47 29/07/2013

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Labour defence spokesman Phil Goff has called for Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman to make a ‘‘straight-out condemnation’’ of the defence force’s definition of investigative journalists as subversives.

Coleman should also be demanding to know immediately who the definition had been used against, Goff told Radio NZ.

Goff said he would also have expected Coleman to apologise for the monitoring of Kiwi journalist Jon Stephenson’s phone calls in Afghanistan.

Coleman would not appear on the programme, but in a statement said the policy had been in place since 2003, when Labour was in government. He also said the order was intended to protect soldiers on operations.

In a Sunday Star-Times article yesterday, investigative journalist Nicky Hager reported the New Zealand military received help from US spy agencies to monitor the phone calls of Stephenson and his associates while he was in Afghanistan reporting on the war.

A leaked New Zealand Defence Force security manual revealed it saw three main ‘‘subversion’’ threats it needed to protect itself against: foreign intelligence services, organisations with extreme ideologies and ‘‘certain investigative journalists’’.

The manual defined ‘‘The Threat’’ as espionage, sabotage, subversion and terrorism, and included investigative journalists under the heading ‘‘subversion’’.

Subversion, it said, was action designed to ‘‘weaken the military, economic or political strength of a nation by undermining the morale, loyalty or reliability of its citizens’’.

It highlighted people acquiring classified information to ‘‘bring the Government into disrepute’’.

Goff, who was defence minister from 2005 to 2008, said he had been unaware of the manual’s description of investigative journalists as subversives.

‘‘The fact is it’s unacceptable,’’ he said today.

‘‘The inclusion of that sort of reference in a defence security manual was absolutely unknown to us, and it would not have been tolerated.’’

Had he known about it while in government it would have been struck off the manual, then questions would have been asked about why it was ever there.

He had also never known an instance where a New Zealand journalist knowingly put at risk the safety or wellbeing of New Zealand soldiers.

‘‘To describe people as subversives because they might find out something that would embarrass authorities is utterly unacceptable,’’ Goff said.

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‘‘I would have thought that this was an absolute example of why we need a full inquiry into how our intelligence services work, before the Government rushes through the Government Communications Security Bureau legislation.’’

- The Dominion Post

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