New Zealand premier settles defamation case with journalist

AP News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2016 2:41 AM
New Zealand premier settles defamation case with journalist

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has settled a defamation case brought by a journalist after acknowledging Monday that comments he made about the man caused him professional and personal harm.

Key said in a statement that he now accepts that freelance cameraman Bradley Ambrose did not deliberately record a private conversation Key had with political ally John Banks days before 2011 national elections.

At a news conference on Monday, Key said that the amount of the settlement was confidential, but that it was less than the legal costs would amount to in a court case. Ambrose had been seeking 1.25 million New Zealand dollars ($846,000) in damages.

"It's a pragmatic settlement in terms of reducing costs," Key said.

Key won't personally be out of pocket. He said the settlement money would come from either the taxpayer-funded parliamentary budget or the National Party, which he leads.

Ambrose told The Associated Press on Monday, "It's time to move on," saying he had been advised against commenting further.

The 2011 incident began after Key invited media to a staged event with his ally Banks before asking journalists to leave so the men could continue to talk in private.

Ambrose said he had inadvertently recorded the men after leaving a microphone running as he was hustled out of the venue. At the time, Key said Ambrose acted deliberately and questioned his ethics, likening him to reporters at the scandal-ridden British tabloid News of the World, which was shut down in 2011.

The recording ended up online, and included an embarrassing comment by Key suggesting a rival politician's support base of pensioners was dying off. Key publicly apologized for the remark.

In his statement Monday, Key said he now accepts that Ambrose did not act deliberately or otherwise behave improperly. However, Key stopped short of apologizing to Ambrose in the statement.