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Line of Journalistc Freedom & Lawful Reporting

Confusing the Line Between Journalistic Freedom and Lawful Reporting

Dr Pita Sharples, Justice Spokesperson for the Maori Party

Thursday 15 November 2007

Dr Pita Sharples has today urged the media to consider disclosure of sources, describing it as a matter of national importance.

“If the argument was that releasing these so-called “terrorism files” were in the interests of public safety, we would suggest that identifying how it was that a confidential 156 page affidavit from the Police managed to be stolen, lost or leaked to the media, is also a matter of grave national importance” said Dr Sharples.

“The credibility and confidence of the public in the Police is already dangerously thin, without such serious doubts now being raised about their capacity to protect confidential information” said Dr Sharples.

“Our concern has always been motivated by issues of justice and fairness” said Dr Sharples. “What is the state of natural justice in this situation, when so much information has already been tried by the media judge and jury?”

“The press, in attributing a headline "the terrorism files", has in effect wound up their criminal case, issuing a guilty ruling - just by virtue of that headline” said Dr Sharples.

“The comments published by the Dominion-Post, the Press and the Waikato Times, were gathered by the Police under special restrictions, with the explicit purpose of collecting evidence for charges to be laid under the Terrorism Suppression Act” said Dr Sharples.

“The evidence should never have been disclosed and as such it must surely prejudice the outcome of any other separate changes – it is a case of trial by the media”.

“We have been concerned that in the selective publication of so-called ‘evidence’, the media has compromised the ability of the judicial system to deliver justice” said Dr Sharples.

“There is now significant public interest in whether the affidavit disclosing the evidence obtained by electronic interceptions was leaked to the media by the Police” stated Dr Sharples.

“If upon the grounds of public interest, certain newspapers found it necessary to break with the legal convention of sub judice and print the information in the first place, then for the same reason they should be challenged to break their own rules and disclose how they came by the affidavit” said Dr Sharples.

ENDS

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