Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

N Zealand denies reporter spy claim

New Zealand's defence force allegedly collected phone metadata to spy on a journalist in Afghanistan

New Zealand's acting defence force chief has said there is no evidence the military unlawfully spied on a journalist in Afghanistan who was freelancing for US news organisation McClatchy.

The statement came in response to a report in the Sunday Star-Times newspaper that the military collected phone metadata to spy on journalist Jon Stephenson, a New Zealander.

The paper claimed the military became unhappy at Mr Stephenson's reporting on how it treated Afghan prisoners.

Also on Monday, the country's minister of defence Jonathan Coleman acknowledged the existence of an embarrassing confidential order that lists investigative journalists alongside spies and terrorists as potential threats to New Zealand's military.

The acting defence force chief, Major General Tim Keating, said the military officers responsible for operations in Afghanistan have assured him that there had been no unlawful monitoring of Mr Stephenson by New Zealand or foreign spy agencies.

New Zealand is a member of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance that also includes the US, Britain, Australia and Canada.

The White House and AP intelligence sources in Washington did not respond on Sunday to requests for comment on the Sunday Star-Times story.

Mr Stephenson wrote for several news organisations and was a freelancer for McClatchy for about 10 months last year.

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