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Scoop’s scoop, the police raid, and investigative journalism

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Scoop has lived up to its name this weekend by releasing documents from the High Court’s hearing of a challenge to the legality of last year’s police raid on the Wellington home of investigative journalist Nicky Hager.

A report from Scoop’s publisher Alastair Thompson provides links to partially redacted versions of an initial group of ten documents released by the Court.

Access to the court file was granted by Justice Clifford, against the wishes of the Crown, following an application to the Court by Scoop.co.nz. The judge ruled:

The respondents’ objection to Scoop having access to the affidavit evidence goes, in my view, too far. As a matter of principle, and bearing in mind principles of open justice, I am not persuaded at this point that the blanket exclusion from access that the respondents seek is appropriate. Rather, I think – much in line with Mr Thompson’s proposition – it would be reasonable for Scoop to have access to that part of the discovered material that is contained in the key evidence bundles.

A judgement is thought to be imminent on the legality of the police raid which took place on October 2nd last year, 13 days after the election. Following the raid, the police sealed the files pending the decision of the judge on the legality of their search.

Following publication of Alistair Thompson’s report, other media have published information found in the ten documents.

In the NZHerald, David Fisher reported that detectives sought the banking, telephone and travel records of Hager without any search order or other legal power:

Court records show Westpac – the government’s banker for 26 years – handed over “almost 10 months of transactions from Mr Hager’s three accounts” at the request of detectives investigating the hacking of Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater’s email and social media accounts. Other companies that were asked for Hager’s private details … rejected the request without a legal order.

Radio New Zealand reports today that Nicky Hager will not say whether he plans to sue Westpac over the release of his financial information to the police:

The court files released to Scoop show police requested detailed information about Mr Hager from a range of organisations. Those organisations included Spark, Vodafone, Jetstar, Air New Zealand, TradeMe and “16 bank contacts”. The documents reveal that most of the organisations declined the request.

The Standard website links the Scoop report with its current efforts to solve the news crisis and to support public interest journalism. The Standard encourages its readers to contribute to Scoop’s pledge drive.

And on the same subject, Wellington journalist Max Rashbrooke has today written about New Zealand’s need for more investigative journalism:

Some good investigations happen … but nowhere near enough. And that’s no great surprise. Investigative journalism is slow, difficult and expensive; it doesn’t produce volumes of sexy headlines. So it’s not a priority for most publishers right now….

You could think of investigative journalism and genuine debate as two very different ways to get at the truth of what is happening in New Zealand right now, to understand the key issues that sit before us. Investigative journalism is the tougher way. It is inherently combative, controversial, abrasive. It involves digging out things that people in power don’t want to see brought into the light. It involves standing up to legal threats, and persistence in the face of people telling you that you should stop, or that you’re wasting your time. It is oppositional by nature. Good investigative journalism requires a certain kind of toughness, and we need more of it. But we also need gentler ways to understand the world. Not everything is a scandal waiting to be revealed. Many issues are complex and multi-layered, and can only be grappled with through prolonged debate, through a free and constructive exchange of views….We will come to better understand our country and each other only if we can encourage both these forms of thinking and writing. And I think Scoop has a better chance than most to foster them.

Read Max Rashbrooke’s article in full here.

1 comment:

  1. Curtis Nixon, 26. October 2015, 11:53

    Great journalism Scoop! Well done and keep it up.