Editorial: Jon Stephenson’s Eyes Wide Shut Revelations Require Official Investigative Scrutiny

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Metro - Eyes Wide Shut, May 2011.

Editorial by Selwyn Manning.

Selwyn Manning, editor.
Selwyn Manning, editor.

EYES WIDE SHUT: Last week news broke about a defamation settlement in the case of journalist Jon Stephenson V New Zealand Defence Force.

But now, after a week has passed with statements issued by both Jon Stephenson and NZDF we are none the wiser why the Government reacted so aggressively to shut down the claims in Stephenson’s Metro investigation Eyes Wide Shut back in 2011.

Yesterday (October 8, 2015), I spoke about this issue on Radio New Zealand’s The Panel with Jim Mora and Lisa Scott. You can listen to this by clicking here or via the player below.

When Jon Stephenson’s Eyes Wide Shut investigation was published by Metro editor Simon Wilson, the Defence Force and the Prime Minister attacked the journalist’s credibility. They challenged several aspects of the article, including direct quotations and references citing an Afghan commander in Kabul. The Defence Force and the Prime Minister caused doubt over whether Jon Stephenson had indeed interviewed this person for the investigative article.

Now, after a costly court battle, the Defence Force has accepted that Stephenson did in fact gain entry to the base and had interviewed the CRU commander. It has settled with Jon Stephenson after spending more than $600,000.00 on court and legal costs.

The Prime Minister however will not be drawn on this issue. Back in 2011, he said: “I’ve got no reason for the NZDF to be lying, and I’ve found [Mr Stephenson] myself personally not to be credible.”

Now that Jon Stephenson’s credibility has been restored, we are left with a long list of unanswered questions – questions that relate to whether New Zealand’s SAS soldiers were in fact ordered to hand over Afghan citizens to US personnel knowing that they would likely be tortured.

At this juncture, we do not know what became of these people. Are they still alive? Have they been repatriated to their homeland? What were their ages and gender? Were they innocent? Were they tortured?

Does the New Zealand Government accept that New Zealand’s SAS soldiers did in fact hand over people to those known to use torture?

If so, who issued that order?

Why did the Government initiate a shoot-the-messenger stance?

The allegations within Eyes Wide Shut and other investigative articles by Jon Stephenson remain hanging in time. If they are true they suggest New Zealand was party to a war crime, party to a breach of the Geneva Convention.

New Zealanders deserve an official investigation, without political interference, into this disturbing issue. Both Labour and National ought to do the right thing and agree to initiate an independent inquiry.

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Selwyn Manning, BCS (Hons.) MCS (Hons.) is an investigative political journalist with 23 years media experience. He specializes in reportage and analysis of socioeconomics, politics, foreign affairs, and security/intelligence issues. Selwyn has extensive experience as a commentator and has provided live political analysis to a wide range of television and radio organizations broadcasting in New Zealand, Australia and globally including the BBC (Five Live, London) and BBC (World Service). He is currently a correspondent to Australia's FiveAA radio, and is a regular live-on-air panelist on Radio New Zealand's The Panel with broadcaster Jim Mora.

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