In April 2011, Jon Stephenson published an article in Metro magazine entitled ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ about the New Zealand Special Air Service’s (SAS’s) involvement in Afghanistan. The article included a reference to Mr Stephenson gaining entry in April 2010 to the headquarters of the Afghan Ministry of Interior Crisis Response Unit (CRU) in Kabul and conducting an interview with the then-commander of the CRU.
On 2 May 2011, the then-Chief of New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), Lieutenant General Rhys Jones, issued a press statement on behalf of the NZDF challenging several aspects of the article. That statement suggested that Mr Stephenson had not gained entry to the CRU base and interviewed the CRU commander as reported in the article. Mr Stephenson believed these words were interpreted by some members of the public and media as meaning that Mr Stephenson had fabricated his report of the visit to the CRU base and his interview with the commander.
In September 2012, Mr Stephenson issued defamation proceedings against General Jones and the NZDF in relation to the statement. General Jones and the NZDF defended that proceeding. A jury trial was held in July 2013, but the jury was unable to reach a verdict. General Jones conceded after hearing evidence at the first trial, that Mr Stephenson did gain entry to the base and interviewed the CRU commander.
General Jones and the NZDF now accept that Mr Stephenson did in fact gain entry to the base and interviewed the CRU commander. They regret that their statement may have been interpreted as suggesting that this had not happened.
The parties have reached a settlement in this matter. This statement is issued as part of that settlement, which also includes a payment to Mr Stephenson.
For further information please contact Defence Public Affairs on 021 487 980