Saturday, September 04, 2004

His side of the story

Having been refused permission to interview Ahmed Zaoui in prison, the Herald is giving the Corrections Department, the SIS, the judge, and the politicians a right good bollocking on the matter. And from the look of it, they really deserve one. There's no issue here with security - Zaoui has been in jail for almost two years now, and is not considered at all dangerous. There's no question of poisoning a jury pool, because Zaoui hasn't been charged with anything and will never face a jury. The only reason to prevent him from speaking is that the officials responsible for his unjust detention are afraid that he will give his side of the story, and that this will (rightly) cause the public to ask nasty pointy questions about how he is being treated.

They see it differently, of course. Zaoui could use an interview to gain public sympathy (with the implication that he does not deserve it) resulting in a "trial by media" and increased political pressure for a fair trial or release. And of course the secret nature of the allegations against him means that the government could not properly respond to any publicity.

Bollocks. The secrecy has in fact worked the other way, with the government putting about lurid allegations of terrorist connections, while Zaoui has been powerless to respond. Denying him direct access to the media is simply an effort to perpetuate this imbalance. As for a "trial by media", Zaoui's case involves issues of fundamental human rights of concern to every New Zealander, which are deserving of the highest level of media scrutiny. But I guess our official's "right" to cover their own arses from public scrutiny and political flack is more important than that.