Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pen Mighter Than Sword?

Is our military might scared of...journalists???
Opposition defence spokesman Phil Goff has demanded Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman condemn the defence force's definition of investigative journalists as "subversives".
A leaked NZ Defence Force security manual cites three main "subversion" threats it needs to protect itself against: foreign intelligence services, organisations with extreme ideologies and (brace yourself!) "certain investigative journalists"... highlighting people who acquire classified information to "bring the Government into disrepute".
Recently, investigative journo Nicky Hager reported our military asked US spy agencies to monitor the phone calls of Kiwi journalist Jon Stephenson, while he was in Afghanistan reporting on the war. Phil Goff says he also expects the govt to apologise for this.
Minister Coleman says the "subversives" policy had been in place since 2003 - when Labour was in power - and was intended to protect soldiers on operations. Goff (defence minister from 2005-2008) claims he was unaware of this, and also says he'd never known an instance where a NZ journalist knowingly put at risk the safety or wellbeing of NZ soldiers. Well, he must've forgotten the NZ Herald publishing in 2010 a clear non-pixelated photograph of our Victoria Cross recipient, SAS Corporal Willie Apiata on patrol in Kabul. This action spurred the NZ Defence Force to withdraw him from active service, which in turn made him decide to leave the full-time military.
Having served myself, I fully understand the need for national security, and especially operational silence. Bringing back a 'D-Notice' would provide more control over sensitive information. Otherwise, why not work together with media on general and transparent issues? That is far preferable to labelling them "subversives" and stirring up a hornets' nest!

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