1 Oct 2015

War reporter wins military case

5:21 pm on 1 October 2015

War correspondent Jon Stephenson has won a legal battle with the New Zealand Defence Force over his visit to a Kabul base.

Defence Force soldiers in Afghanistan's Bamyan province in 2013.

Defence Force soldiers in Afghanistan's Bamyan province in 2013. Photo: NZ DEFENCE FORCE

Military chiefs had claimed an article he wrote was wrong and that the journalist did not gain entry to a top base in Kabul in Afghanistan.

The defamation case was heard in 2013, but the jury failed to reach a verdict.

However, the Defence Force has now admitted Mr Stephenson did go to the headquarters of the Interior Crisis Response Unit and interview its commander.

A retrial was scheduled for next year, but all parties have now reached an out-of-court settlement, involving a payment to the reporter as well as a retraction.

Mr Stephenson said he could not say how much money he got, but did say he was very happy and considered the outcome a victory.

The argument started in April 2011 when the reporter published an article in Metro magazine called 'Eyes Wide Shut', which was about the role of New Zealand's SAS in Afghanistan.

The then-chief of defence, Lieutenant General Rhys Jones, challenged the contents of the story.

Mr Stephenson said he pursued legal action because "journalists holding the powers-that-be to account should not be subjected to false claims".