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Labour says Police have become politicised

Author
Regan Schoultz ,
Section
National,
Publish Date
Friday, 18 December 2015, 5:25a.m.
Newstalk ZB Staff

UPDATED 9.45AM: The Labour Party is accusing the Police of giving in to serious political interference.

LISTEN ABOVE: Nicky Hager and Gavin Ellis speak to Jack Tame

The High Court yesterday ruled police unlawfully searched Hager's house in the hunt for identity of the hacker who supplied information for the Dirty Politics book.

LISTEN: David Fisher joins Rachel Smalley to discuss Hager verdict

Labour is comparing it to the search of media organisations over the 2011 "teapot tape" recording of John Banks and John Key.

Shadow Attorney-General David Parker said in both cases, the raids shouldn't have happened.

"The Police in my opinion acted wrongly against the media, and I think they've become politicised in the last two elections by the government."

Parker argues the Police and Prime Minister must apologise for the raid of Nicky Hager's home.

Hager himself said this morning that he very pleased with the ruling.

"There are people all over the country whose job it is to find sources of information for the public, to find people who will trust them to tell them inside story on what's really going on, and maybe risk their jobs or get in trouble for it," he said.

"This is a great moment for everyone who does our kind of work because it means that people will be less nervous when they talk to us [journalists]."

The court's ruling in Nicky Hager's favour greatly affects the general public because of the vital role journalists play in sustaining a functioning democracy, a media law expert says.

Media law expert Professor Ursula Cheer explained why the ruling was not only important for journalists, but the public too.

"For citizens to be able to understand what is going on, who is governing them and who is spending money on their behalf and whether people are behaving according to the rule of law and all that, then journalists need to be out there holding power to account," Cheer said.

"Often they have to get information from people who don't want their identity to be made public and those people probably wouldn't give their information if they thought their identity would be made public, so that is what confidentiality of sources is all about. Join the dots and journalists are doing a job on our behalf because we don't have time to investigate and find out what is going on."

Cheer said it set a precedent about was acceptable and unacceptable police behaviour around seeking warrants to raid journalists' homes.

"This really affirms to police what the Court of Appeal said about 10 years ago before this new Search and Surveillance Act applies if they are going to get warrants against journalists," she said.

"It all ties back to journalists actually doing a really useful job which is holding power to account. They need to have their sources and their sources need to know they can trust the journalist so the law needs to be very very careful before it allows something to happen that might damage those relationships.

"It is not just a rarefied decision that makes journalists happy, it [allows] journalists to get on and do the job that they are doing on our behalf."

Auckland University Professor and former Editor-in-Chief of The New Zealand Herald Gavin Ellis points out that Justice Clifford draws attention to Section 68 of the Evidence Act which stipulates journalist privilege should be offered at the first point of contact.

"When police carry out a search warrant, it's their responsibility to establish right at the outset whether privilege is being claimed," he said.

Additional reporting by Regan Schoultz

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