Every time someone calls Hager an “Investigative Journalist”, Ian Wishart dies a little

I hope Nicky’s work in his new book Hit and Run attacking NZ SAS in Afghanistan is a step up from his previous effort in 2014.

In his book Dirty Politics, Nicky Hager reprints allegations contained in stolen private emails – theories about a wide range of people. Among the allegations he has printed are that former Act leader Rodney Hide was blackmailed into quitting because he had been caught sending inappropriate text messages to a woman.

Additionally, Hager reprinted emails alleging Auckland mayor Len Brown was having sex with prostitutes.

Neither Brown nor Hide appear to have been asked to comment on the truth of the allegations. In fact, Hide has definitely confirmed he was not approached, and that the allegations are false and without substance.

Yet here is what Nicky Hager testified to the Wellington High Court in a defamation case last year:

“I believe the more serious the allegations we write, the more care that is required to ensure we have got things correct. I say to myself that no one can ever criticise me for things I haven’t written, so that if I am not absolutely sure of something, I don’t publish.

“Research is something that can take months or years. In this case the allegations were serious and personal. I would not include allegations like those in my work if there was so little time for proving the facts…

“I was struck by the fact that the sexual allegations appeared to rely entirely upon the words of the plaintiff’s ex-wife. As a journalist, I would feel very uneasy about publishing, let alone putting my name to, sexual allegations from an ex-spouse unless I had done a lot of work and found very strong corroborating evidence.”

This would be the same Nicky Hager who took the stand in an Auckland court case last year and told the media and people in the court that blogs like Whaleoil should never be considered to have the same checks and balances as a proper media organisation.   

Remember, the allegations published in the book he was being asked to comment on were a woman’s claims that her first husband back in the 1960s was addicted to sex, tried to take her to strip clubs and was in her opinion a pervert for those reasons. The woman later alleged in court that she had been raped during the marriage, although in the 1960s this was not a crime. That allegation was not in the book that Hager was asked to comment on.

In contrast, Hager’s Dirty Politics alleges Len Brown not only had an affair with Bevan Chuang but that he may have been sleeping with prostitutes, and that Rodney Hide was sending unwanted text messages to a woman. Both of these allegations are serious and have an impact on two families. If true they are matters of public interest, but Hager had done no fact checking of any kind.

In cross examination, Hager told the Court he would “never” use a single source in a sexual allegation:

“Single source is regarded as bad form in all journalistic training and it’s sort of seen as the beginning rather than the end of the process, yeah, that you would get a single source and that would be where you’d start and then you would head out into the world to try to corroborate what they’ve told you.

“So these are your personal standards?”

“These are my personal standards, yes. Oh no, without wanting to be a hypocrite again, there would be instances in which I would use a single source, but I wouldn’t use it in a contentious, complicated, murky area where the stakes were high. I would never do that.” [Trial Transcript page 347, lines 19 to 28]

Asked whether he was saying a woman should never accuse someone of inappropriate sexual behaviour unless she had multiple witnesses to back her up (so that she was not a ‘single source’), Hager replied:

“I am specifically saying that a woman or a man making allegations of those kinds after however long, as the only source, would not be enough for me to even dream of publishing it. Even though I might personally completely feel sympathy and support their right to try and find justice in every way they can, that’s different from a decision to publish.”

“Because you would be concerned they might not be believed in Court?” asked barrister Chris Tennet.

“Not because of that. I’m concerned that I might be wrong and do an injustice to somebody else by believing one person when I didn’t have, actually in the end, good enough grounds.”

“So supporting evidence would influence your decision?”

“Yes.” [Trial Transcript page 348, lines 20 to 31]

Oh dear lord.

 

Ian Wishart

 


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