Statement By Cate Brett Editor Sunday Star-Times
12TH April 2005
STATEMENT BY CATE BRETT EDITOR
THE SUNDAY STAR-TIMES
The Sunday Star -Times accepts Justice Neazor's conclusion that he found no evidence to support the allegations of unlawful bugging of iwi groups.
The story was published in good faith and after a thorough investigation into a sophisticated and complex web of evidence.
"This is consistent with our right and duty to put the claims in the public arena and subject them to the scrutiny of public debate and official inquiry.
“This is an important function of a free press in a democratic society," said Brett
However the paper called for the inquiry at the time of publishing the allegations precisely because of the extreme difficulties journalists confronted independently corroborating the status of the men making the allegations.
"In his four month investigation, due to his special powers, Justice Neazor was able to access secure information from various government sources including the SIS which of course are not available to journalists."
Once the inquiry was initiated, the paper co-operated fully with Justice Neazor, including assisting him to establish contact with the iwi allegedly targeted by the operative. While not disclosing its sources to Justice Neazor, the paper did all in its powers to facilitate contact between the Inspector and its sources.
The failure of these sources ultimately to provide Justice Neazor with the documentary evidence they claim to have in the end led him to conclude that this evidence did not in fact exist. The Prime Minister has characterised this matter as a "hoax" perpetrated by "conmen".
However Justice Neazor could cast no light on their status or possible motivation.
These events highlight the unique difficulties in providing independent corroboration for claims involving the intelligence community.
"Given this, and with hindsight, readers would have been better served by a less judgmental treatment of the initial news story," said Brett.
We have published the Inspector-General's report on our website for the benefit of our readers. The Sunday Star-Times will report further to its readers on this matter in due course.