Request for reporter's phone records denied

By Kate Shuttleworth

Speaker David Carter has confirmed that Vance's phone and building access records were requested from Parliamentary Service. Photo /  Mark Mitchell
Speaker David Carter has confirmed that Vance's phone and building access records were requested from Parliamentary Service. Photo / Mark Mitchell

New documents show the David Henry inquiry asked Parliamentary Service for access to the phone records of Fairfax journalist Andrea Vance - but they were declined.

Parliamentary Service did not hand over Vance's phone records, but gave them her building access records.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said he believed Prime Minister John Key knew about the Henry Inquiry asking Parliamentary Service for the phone records.

Speaker David Carter, in response to written questions, confirmed the Henry Inquiry established under the authority of the Prime Minister to look into the early release of the GCSB report, requested Vance's phone and building access records from Parliamentary Service.

Dr Norman said it raised serious questions about the freedom of the press.

"It is deeply disturbing for our democracy that the Prime Minister's office had the desire to access the phone records of a journalist as part of its inquiry into the early release of the Kitteridge report on the GCSB.

"This is a pattern of anti-democratic and menacing behaviour by the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister's office that is alarming.

"One of the basic democratic principles that we rely on is a free press in order to keep the government of the day accountable.

"It is unacceptable for the media to have their details trawled through by unelected officials acting on behalf of the minister responsible for our security services.''

The Prime Minister said he was not aware that any journalist's phone records were being sought for the David Henry inquiry.

Mr Key said he made it clear in the terms of reference of the inquiry that it was appropriate for the inquiry team to access the records of ministers.

"I wouldn't have thought that that was appropriate about media.''

When asked if David Henry acted inappropriately by asking for Vance's phone records, he said:

"My view has been that he shouldn't have engaged with the media side of that equation, but other ministerial or staff members were fair game - but I've made those comments before,'' said Mr Key.

A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said Dr Norman's claim the Prime Minister's office sought this information was plain wrong.

"This information was sought by the Henry inquiry without the knowledge of the Prime Minister or his office.

"The Prime Minister has previously said he, like most New Zealanders, he values the role of the fourth estate around Parliament and he does not think it's appropriate to start looking at their activities.''

The Privileges Committee is now considering the question of privilege regarding the use of intrusive powers within the parliamentary precinct.

- NZ Herald

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