On October 6th, New Zealand police raided the house of one of the country’s best independent investigative journalists, Nicky Hager, seizing many of his family’s belongings and his reporting equipment—all in the search for one of his sources. This is a flagrant violation of basic press freedom rights, and today we are announcing a campaign to assist Hager in raising money for his legal defense. Please go here to donate.
Hager recently wrote an explosive book entitled Dirty Politics based on an anonymous source in the lead-up to New Zealand’s most recent election. The book showed how Prime Minister John Key’s administration was feeding information to a far right-wing blog in an attempt to smear its opponents. The New Zealand Herald called the book “an election bombshell” and its revelations led to the resignation of New Zealand’s Justice Minister at the end of August.
But just days after recent Key’s re-election, Hager’s home was raided by New Zealand police for ten hours. "Soon after the police arrived, the lead detective stated that I was not a suspect in their case, merely a witness," Hager said in a statement on October 6th. Yet the police “seized a large collection of papers and electronic equipment belonging to my family, including computers, drives, phones, CDs, an IPOD and a camera."
The Intercept reported today that for months before his house was raided, Hager had also been working with Glenn Greenwald and The Intercept, preparing to report stories based on the Snowden documents.
Hager doesn’t know if this contributed to the decision to raid his house, but the fact that the raid happened so shortly afterwards is disturbing to say the least. According to Hager, the New Zealand government has been nervous about the publication of New Zealand-related Snowden revelations and has made various moves, publicly and privately, to prepare for their eventual publication.
We do know, however, the New Zealand intelligence services have a notoriously close relationship with the NSA via the ‘Five Eyes’ alliance, and two other Five Eyes partners—Australia and the United Kingdom—have both moved to aggressively censor and criminalize journalism in the wake of Snowden. UK has forced the Guardian to destroy a copy of the Snowden files, has a criminal investigation open into their newsroom, and detained Glenn Greenwald's partner under a terrorism statute. Australia recently passed a law that could land journalists in jail for ten years.
New Zealand's treatment of Nicky Hager is a classic case of intimidation and is exactly the type of government behavior meant to chill journalism and prevent reporting from doing their job.
Glenn Greenwald issued this statement in support of Hager:
The 10-hour raid on Nicky Hager's home is a grave threat to press freedoms, but unfortunately is part of a broader campaign by the Five Eyes alliance to attack whatever journalism they dislike. Fortunately, Nicky has a long history of brave journalism and will not let any of this remotely deter the reporting we have been working on together. But he still needs, and deserves, public support to ensure that he can fight without concern or hesitation against these oppressive measures."
Hager is a freelancer and has no news organization to rely on for support or to help pay his legal bills. His case is expected to drag on for many months.
Hager said this two weeks ago following the raid that occurred on October 6:
I believe the police actions are dangerous for journalism in New Zealand. It matters to all people working in the media who could similarly have their property searched and seized to look for sources. People are less likely to help the media if the police act in this way. The police want people to respect their role in society; they should in turn respect other people's roles in society.
We couldn’t agree more. Please go here to donate to Hager’s legal defense and send a message that the New Zealand government has no right to raid reporters’ homes for doing their job.