I’ve never met Bradley Ambrose but he’s been on my mind a lot recently.
He’s the journalist and cameraman whose recording device remained on the table during the utterly preposterous cup of tea John Banks and John Key shared in a café before the 2011 election.
Remember it? The politicians, for their own reasons, invited the media to come and observe this rather weird and ritualistic moment, which was clearly about getting the public to see Mr Banks, then the leader of the ACT Party and Epsom candidate, was being endorsed by National. But things went terribly wrong when the pair, having declared the public moment over, were nevertheless recorded discussing matters political. Mr Ambrose’s recording device was still on the table. Outraged, the PM went on the offensive. The police even searched newsrooms in their fervour to find the tape. It was all rather Orwellian, to be honest.
Mr Ambrose, who has always maintained the device was not intentionally left on the table, later wrote a letter expressing regret that he had passed the recording to media, and, after discussing the issue with Mr Key, the police decided not to prosecute. But Mr Ambrose, a freelancer whose livelihood depended on his reputation, found his work drying up. Struggling as a result, he is now suing the PM for three alleged counts of defamation. Mr Key has refused to retract anything he said.
As I said, I’ve never met Mr Ambrose. But there are some things I know about him. He’s a journalist so he hasn’t a brass razoo to his name and needs his reputation intact to get work. He’s a journalist so the truth matters to him. He’s a journalist so it is his job to get as much public interest information out about electoral candidates, including the stuff they don’t want out there. And he’s a journalist so he won’t get much sympathy because people like Mr Banks and Mr Key do their best to make journalists seem untrustworthy (and, of course, some are).
But there are things I know about Mr Banks and Mr Key, too. They are politicians so they have both money and power. They are politicians so they use that power to repress opposition at every opportunity. They are politicians, and for many politicians what is true is less important than what is believable. And they are politicians so they should know better than to discuss private things after having invited the media to a publicity stunt. As the young would say, FFS.
I don’t know if the court will find in favour of Mr Ambrose but I do know that in seeking redress he will face huge personal and financial costs. So on his behalf, and in a way on behalf of journalism itself, I have started a Givealittle page to help fund his court costs. To even take the case requires a $38,000 filing fee, without which he can never have his day in court. If you want to help, click here.
It’s a very lonely road fighting a matter of principle on your own.