Journalist's court case costs NZDF thousands

7:22 pm on 29 February 2016

Journalist Jon Stephenson took a defamation case against the New Zealand Defence Force after it issued a news statement implying he had lied about a visit to Afghanistan.

A settlement was reached after the defence force admitted Stephenson had interviewed the commander of the Interior Crisis Response Unit as he had claimed.

Troops returning from Iraq are welcomed by Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee at Ohakea Air Base on 16 November 2015.

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee visits Ohakea Air Base in November. Photo: Pool / Warwick Smith / Fairfax NZ

Today it was revealed the case had cost the defence force hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"The whole situation seems somewhat unsatisfactory but I can't make further comment as a confidential settlement was reached with Mr Stephenson and I don't wish to breach his rights," Mr Brownlee said.

Prime Minister John Key wasn't backing down from comments he made at the time in support of the defence force.

"Yeah, I stand by all the comments I made, yeah. I'm not going to go into the details why. I've got my own experiences and I'll keep them to myself."

The defence force would not change the way it dealt with media despite the costly case, a spokesperson said.

Labour Party defence spokesman Phil Goff said the government should front up over how it got things "so wrong".

He said both the defence force and Mr Key had attacked Stephenson's credibility.

"Was that the result of a genuine mistake, they'd simply got wrong advice, or was it rather more sinister than that, was that a smear tactic really designed to undermine the questions and the criticism that Jon Stephenson was raising."

There were still a lot of unanswered questions regarding the case and it was the government's responsibility to answer those, Mr Goff said.

"When something like this happens and taxpayer money is wasted, the public would be right in demanding that this type of thing doesn't happen again."