By SCOTT MacLEOD
A prominent journalist who opened a letter addressed to someone else and published extracts will face criminal charges.
Steve Braunias, the New Zealand Listener's arts and books editor, will be charged after a complaint from Taupo musician Jon Mark, who played with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
The dispute started when Braunias inherited Mark's post office box in Eastbourne, Wellington.
The journalist said the letter was among others in his box and that he opened it by accident.
He wrote a lighthearted column for the Listener in November saying the letter contained a royalty cheque for $76, and that it made him "suddenly remember" being a 1970s musician.
The story mentioned Mark, gave details of the US$52.75 royalty, and said it was for playing on the John Mayall albums Something New and Waiting for the Right Time.
It ended by asking the real Mark to contact the Listener for the cheque.
Sergeant Wayne Radovich of Petone said yesterday that charges would be laid under the Postal Services Act.
Offences under the act include unlawfully opening a postal article and wrongful divulgence of information. They carry fines up to $5000 or up to six months' jail.
Mark, 60, said he would lay a similar complaint against former Listener editor Finlay Macdonald for allowing Braunias' column to be published.
"The Listener wouldn't have done it if it was Bob Jones or Winston Peters, and they shouldn't do it for anyone else," Mark said. "I feel this is a case for all New Zealanders."
Braunias, 39, said he was interviewed by police a month ago but had since heard nothing.
His column was vetted by a lawyer before it was published.
He did not know how he would plead to any charges, or whether the Listener would support him. Braunias complained that he was still receiving Mark's mail through the Eastbourne Hammer Hardware Post Shop.
"It's a damn nuisance," Braunias said. "I take my mail to the cafe, then have to take it back again."
A spokeswoman for new Listener editor Pamela Stirling said the magazine would not comment.
By SCOTT MacLEOD