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Police demand media divulge sources

(IFJ/IFEX) – 17 November 2011 – The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns demands by New Zealand police for news organisations to divulge information relating to the so-called secret recording of a meeting between the New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and candidate for the seat of Epsom, John Banks.

The recording was made by freelance cameraman Bradley Ambrose during an event organised by Key in Auckland, in the country's north, on November 11. The event was intended to encourage supporters of Key's National Party to vote for Banks, a member of the governing coalition's ACT party, at the November 26 New Zealand general election.

Key has stated that neither he nor Banks were aware their conversation was being recorded and has made an official complaint to the police about the unauthorised recording of the conversation.

The story has generated considerable public interest, and New Zealand police have demanded Radio New Zealand, TVNZ, TV3 and a fourth unnamed media organisation hand over unpublished news material relating to recordings.

Radio New Zealand has reportedly refused these demands, prompting threats by New Zealand police to obtain a search warrant and seize the material later this week. Radio New Zealand says it does not have a copy of the tape at the centre of the complaint.

"While there are ethical questions about how the recording was made, the police clampdown on news media organisations just nine days before New Zealand's general election is alarming, and may be interpreted as an attempt to suppress media freedom," IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

The IFJ supports journalists at Radio New Zealand and other news media organisations for upholding their ethical obligation to protect confidential sources and responsibility to gather and report news in the public interest.

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