Mihi Forbes accused of taking clothes from Maori TV

Journalist and television presenter Mihingarangi Forbes. Photo / Supplied
Journalist and television presenter Mihingarangi Forbes. Photo / Supplied

Journalist Mihingarangi Forbes has hit back at claims she took clothing from her former employers Maori Television, saying "I'm not a thief".

Fairfax Media reported this morning that Forbes, the former presenter of Native Affairs, was told she could take three items of clothing, but instead took ten items with a total value of $2400 when she left the show last year.

The issue was documented in emails uncovered by Official Information Act requests, and revealed on the same day as the launch of Forbes' new show, The Hui.

Forbes, who quit Maori Television last year amid concerns about editorial interference, said she believed she was allowed to take the clothing, and it was an arrangement with a former boss.

After the article was published, she tweeted. "Those who know me know I'm not a thief. This Maori TV bullshit needs to end."

In response, former Maori Television chief executive Jim Mather tweeted: "As a former CEO of Māori TV I am appalled at the vindictive & defamatory nature of the attack on the credibility & honesty of Mihi Forbes."

Dozens of other supporters jumped online, calling into question the timing of the article and accusing Maori Television of feeding the story to media.

"Maramena & Paora of @maoritv must really hate @Mihi_Forbes to be condone feeding the media a story about disputed clothing #knife #back," said Mana magazine columnist Graham Cameron.

"If it's any consolation Mihi... I think most of us see it for what it is #nasty #petty #politics " said publicist Andi Brotherston.

Former journalist Jodi Ihaka said "kia kaha: we know who has integrity & honesty & who doesn't. That attack is utterly shameful".

In a statement provided to Fairfax and sent to the Herald, Forbes said it was industry convention that presenters were given clothing purchased specially for events, which was confirmed to the Herald by two industry sources. Often clothing was part of contract arrangements.

"The questions led me to believe you have been given an inaccurate account of events but I trust you will deliver a fair and balanced story to all parties and issues involved," Forbes wrote.

"I question the motivation behind these questions and I wonder how they came about... I'm sure you've worked out that our new show is in direct competition with Native Affairs and I only hope you're not being used to attack our product and my reputation for commercial reasons, or to further grudges."

In addition, Julian Wilcox, Forbes' boss at the time, provided a statement to say the clothing purchases followed Maori Television policy, and are also aligned to broadcasting industry convention.

"As General Manager of News and Current Affairs of Māori Television, I can state unequivocally that Mihi upheld professional standards as an employee in all facets of her duties and responsibilities," he said.

Maori Television's head of corporate affairs, Rick Osborne, told Fairfax it would not take action to recover the items. No one had contacted Forbes about the clothes after she left the station.

Maori Television are yet to respond to questions from the Herald.

The allegations are the latest in a series of incidents surrounding Forbes' departure from Maori Television, where she was best-known for an award-winning investigation into alleged financial mismanagement the Te Kohanga Reo National Trust.

The story caused controversy in Maoridom for its straight-forward approach to questioning authority figures, such as Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi, the head of the Kohanga movement.

Forbes was openly criticised for her work, including in a radio interview with broadcaster Willie Jackson - who also has links to Maori television - who claimed Forbes leaked information about Maori Television to "Pakeha reporters".

This month the Broadcasting Standards Authority upheld a complaint made by Forbes and fellow journalist Annabelle Lee, saying Jackson's discussion with with a Maori TV executive treated Forbes and Lee unfairly, and in part inaccurately. The BSA found his comments were damaging to the professional reputations of both Ms Forbes and Ms Lee, but it did not enforce an apology.

Further drama played out when Forbes was invited to take part in a discussion on the BSA decision on Media Take - a Maori Television show - and then was uninvited for reasons yet to be disclosed.

Forbes new show, The Hui, launches on TV3 at 9.30am today.

- NZ Herald

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