30 Jul 2013

Call for death threat to be investigated

9:28 pm on 30 July 2013

A freelance journalist is calling on the Defence Force to investigate his complaint that a senior serving officer made death threats against him.

Jon Stephenson says that, to his knowledge, the Defence Force took no further action despite being informed that a police investigation had taken place.

Mr Stephenson says the senior officer in the New Zealand special forces, who is still serving, made repeated threats against him and his sources because of stories he wrote while working in Afghanistan.

New Zealand police have confirmed they investigated a complaint laid by Mr Stephenson in June 2011. They said no charges were laid, as no one else was privy to the conversation in which the alleged threats were made.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said on Tuesday if Jon Stephenson wants further action then he should front up and name the officer.

Mr Stephenson said he'd be happy to, but Dr Coleman could easily obtain that information with one phone call to the Defence Force. He said to his knowledge, Defence chief Lieutenant-General Rhys Jones and other senior officers were aware of the incident.

Mr Stephenson has named the officer, but on legal advice, Radio New Zealand is not revealing his identity.

Journalist adamant military spied on him

Jon Stephenson is also adamant that the military spied on him, despite the Defence Force insisting it did not.

Another journalist, Nicky Hager, says the Defence Force monitored Mr Stephenson's phone calls while he was reporting in Afghanistan.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman on Monday rejected that claim, saying he had received assurances from the Defence Force it had no evidence this happened.

But Mr Stephenson told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme that the Defence Force has been trying to discredit him and has threatened his sources and spread rumours that he is anti-military. He said senior Defence officials believe it should withhold important information about the War on Terror from the public.

Dr Coleman said he would be happy for Nicky Hager or Jon Stephenson to put forward their evidence of spying.

In 2012, Mr Stephenson was reporting on Afghanistan for McClatchy newspapers in the United States. McClatchy vice-president Anders Gyllenhaal told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme it is hard to determine whether the accusations are true, but the situation raises serious questions and he would wait for a full review before making a judgement.