16 Jul 2013

Defence chief accepts journalist at base

8:31 pm on 16 July 2013

Lieutenant-General Rhys Jones and the Defence Force are in the High Court in Wellington defending a defamation case brought by Jon Stephenson.

Lieutenant General Rhys Jones.

Lieutenant General Rhys Jones. Photo: RNZ

At issue in the case is a Defence Force news release responding to an article by Mr Stephenson about his visit to a base in Afghanistan and the role of New Zealand elite troops from the SAS.

Mr Stephenson claims the statement implied that he had lied in the article.

Lieutenant-General Jones told the court on Tuesday afternoon he also now accepts that Mr Stephenson probably did meet an Afghanistan colonel at the Crisis Response Unit base.

He said the Defence Force hasn't made any other public statement about the article because he still considers the first statement was balanced, based on the evidence the organisation had when the article was written.

In earlier evidence, a former Defence Force public relations manager Chris Wright told the jury that matters relating to Jon Stephenson's article still don't stack up for him.

In cross-examination, Mr Wright said he wasn't saying Mr Stephenson was lying, but it made no sense that the journalist didn't film or photograph or make a recording of the man he spoke to at the base.

Mr Wright said when he was a journalist, his superiors would have told him without those things he didn't have a story, and it was unheard of for a journalist not to take a pen or paper to such an interview.