Howling At The Tube
Open letter From Aggrieved Publisher Ian Wishart
How much longer do we have to put up with this kind of conspiracy of silence from our news media? Given a nightly menu of worthless rubbish in an effort to hide stories such as these.... Paul Cutler TVNZ Director of News & Current Affairs Victoria St West Auckland NZ
(and an open letter to everyone else)
I'll put this bluntly: who am I supposed to be sleeping with at TVNZ in order to get fair and objective coverage of our books as legitimate news stories?
Now I'll grant you, we gave Holmes a real serve in Paradise Conspiracy II, but you and I both know he thoroughly deserved it. However, Paradise II was ignored by the news media (despite being another #1 bestseller) until the High Court verified my earlier findings last month. No surprise there except, apparently, for the news media.
However, despite coverage by One Network News of the Court hearing and speculation as to whether the Government would approve further action, your news team singularly failed to cover the fact that yours truly filed the first ever official fraud complaint in regard to the Winebox with police, a complaint which they will be forced to act upon, given the strength of the court verdicts.
I would have presumed that objective news coverage would have noted this major development, but it did not - despite our sending the news release through twice in the space of 12 hours, and despite it being all over the radio news wires that day.
In addition, the book The God Factor by myself gets released and again rockets into the bestseller list, with allegations about Clinton's money laundering and drug involvement (all fully documented) and a bribery and spying scandal involving an Indonesian businessman who only two weeks prior had been invited to NZ to meet Jenny Shipley. The issue was even raised in Parliament, but not once did TVNZ cover it.
Instead, an analysis of TVNZ news on the day of launch shows you had an hour of more "pressing" news to tell people about. The fact is that in many parts of the country that book outsold the Holmes book, and it is still on the Whitcoulls top ten.
You'll forgive me by this point for thinking, once again, that the New Zealand news media are:
1.gutless, or 2.anxious not to offend people in positions of power 3.incompetent, in that they can't recognise real news or all of the above However, it gets better. We then release a book, State Secrets, written by a former NZ soldier who worked in NZ Defence counter-intelligence. Ben Vidgen, for that is he, used his contacts in the intelligence and organised crime communities to piece together probably the singularly most explosive book ever published in New Zealand.
It names former NZ cabinet ministers as arms dealers. It reveals the Glock problem that the police have - which I first raised with you aeons ago - and that the safety issues surrounding the Glocks resulted in an airliner carrying a visiting world leader almost being tragically shot down when an NZ policeman's gun accidentally misfired on the plane.
I mean, HELLO! Is this not a news story by any definition of the event? And please don't use the APEC defence - you had three quarters of an hour of other news each night. In addition, that story was highly relevant to APEC for obvious reasons. Incidentally, the same day a protester was arrested for holding up a banner calling Clinton a rapist, I was on nation-wide radio broadcasting clips from a US documentary spelling out Bill Clinton's drug and criminal background and even his links to a string of murders. I wasn't arrested. Go figure.
The author also alleges that thousands of military weapons were smuggled into NZ in the 1980's by the CIA in a bid to destabilise the Lange Government - those weapons being supplied to militant Maori groups. The weapons are now surfacing in the hands of criminals. Again, I would have thought this was a news story.
Then there's the issue of the Soviet spy. No, not the 87 year old granny in England, or even former Kiwi diplomat Paddy Costello whom the Herald bravely asserted today was a KGB agent - when those of us in the journalistic community who actually read books on such matters have known of Costello's treason for around a decade. No, none of these. Instead, the spy our Army author refers to was a Cabinet Minister in the Lange Government who was allegedly blackmailed by the KGB for two years after being caught "in flagranté delicto".
Now please correct me if I'm wrong (and I have around 30 espionage books in my library so I doubt it) but according to everything I can find this was the highest level penetration ever by the KGB of NZ security - turning a Cabinet Minister into a Soviet agent.
One Network News' best efforts on this were limited to Julie White asking "do you name the Minister?", at which point I explained no, and the reasons for this, and her response was essentially: "well, if you don't name them there's not really a story, is there."
I didn't have the heart to point out that the British media - and indeed TVNZ reported on it - spent the best part of five decades trying to figure out the identity of the so-called "fifth man" in Philby's spy ring, including naming several people as possible candidates.
The story is taken as far as we can take it in the book: a reliable claim by Defence Intelligence in NZ that the Sergei Budnik expulsion in the late 80s was a cover for the real story. We even name several people who can possibly corroborate the story. But it is surely significant as news in itself. As the author acknowledges, it was either disinformation deliberately provided to mislead NZ intelligence, or it was real. Either way, NZ intelligence officials believe it happened. Either way, it is news.
TVNZ's failure to run this story does not reflect well on its news judgement.
Then there is Customs. Named Customs officers in the book say they are being refused permission to search ships "known" to be used by drug traffickers. In the same book, criminal elements named in the drug trade boast about paying off certain Government officials to ensure that a blind eye is turned.
Is this not news?
Then a Dunedin lawyer alleges that Dunedin police and judiciary are involved with organised crime - and I can get you several others including former Dunedin police who would testify to this as well - and still "New Zealand's leading news team" don't have the balls to tackle it.
What about the CIA's use of NZ's Civil Aviation Authority as cover for an armed agent in a massive four-country sting operation? And the revelations about Fay Richwhite's involvement in this? The case was prosecuted in a US court. It is "on the record", so to speak.
The newshounds downstairs missed it again.
Why did the NZ Government allow four professional assassins to transit through Auckland on two occasions as part of a failed coup attempt in the Pacific?
Did the violent and suspicious death of an SAS soldier's son, and a hit and run on his daughter, have anything to do with the fact that the SAS soldier had been ordered not to speak to the author of State Secrets, but was unlucky enough to receive a visit from Mr Vidgen shortly before the "accidents" happened?
As I said at the start of this letter: I'll be blunt. From what I've seen in recent months, TVNZ's news judgement sucks. You are prepared to give Holmes an hour of airtime to promote his book, and Pam Corkery gets an hour to promote a book whose sole news value appears to be one incident where Jim Anderton is allegedly a bully, yet real news gets pushed aside.
If you think the allegations in Paradise 2, The God Factor or State Secrets are flaky, then have the courage to test your best researchers against myself and Ben Vidgen. Give us an hour on Crossfire, and let's see who emerges unscathed. Because you'll remember Paul that I am a stickler for detail, and I understood those winebox documents long before anyone else did. I wasn't wrong then, and I'm not wrong now.
In fact, as proof of the shallow threats that many news organisations appear to cave in to these days, I took the honourable step of giving a well known NZ corporate the chance to comment on allegations surrounding their involvement with an alleged organised crime syndicate. The company denied any link, then their lawyer subsequently threatened me with a defamation action. Three hours after confirming our intention to "publish and be damned", regardless of the threats that work so well against others, I received a phoned death threat, which named information that I had supplied to two representatives of the NZ corporate - and no one else knew.
"Judge them not by their words, but by their deeds". In one fell swoop, they appeared to confirm to me by their actions that they are tied in to the Mafia. A complaint is with the police, and in the meantime we've upgraded security.
Again, this wasn't considered news by those intrepid investigative reporters down at ONN.
So, again, you give us one hour in prime time, and you throw as many "conspiracy theory" allegations at us as you like, and we'll let New Zealanders make up their own minds about whether the NZ media have the intellectual firepower to handle real news or not.
Sound like a fun idea? I reckon it'd make great television. It would also redress what I consider is a major imbalance in objective and impartial news coverage.
If it's any consolation, we gave the Herald a sound thrashing over similar issues in regard to The Paradise Conspiracy 2. Their book reviewer told one of our customers he had no intention of reviewing PC2 because he didn't like my style. When the customer wrote to Gavin Ellis, he received a letter back saying they'd consider it, but that "Wishart doesn't have any specialist legal or financial experience" and that my claims in PC2 were not, therefore, to be taken too seriously.
Fortuitously, I had just received a letter from a firm of Wellington tax accountants, praising PC2 as "the best forensic accounting investigation" they'd seen. Similar praise too from the former head of the Wellington CIB and the Police National Crime Intelligence Bureau.
Then came that verdict from the High Court. The rest is history, including a positive review from the Herald - the first in two years.
If you have any reason to doubt my intelligence connections, and ability to draw upon those in digging up the real stories, try getting some of your staff to check this one out: a container of military weapons has just been discovered at the wharf in Vanuatu a couple of days ago. The origin is unknown: the destination is Fiji.
No other news organisation in the world knows of this yet - you could be the first, presuming the TVNZ journos can inspire sufficient confidence to convince the Vanuatuans to tell them. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that the recent election in Fiji has gone down like a lead balloon with some, and we could be in for another bloody skirmish in the Pacific.
The two books are enclosed. I'm looking for justice. Either of those books has a damned sight more journalistic merit than others you have deigned to cover.
Regards Ian Wishart Aggrieved publisher