Givealittle campaign launched to help ‘teapot’ cameraman sue PM

Unlike Awaroa beach campaign, government understood to be unlikely to contribute to this crowdfunding effort. With special audio feature.

Following the success of a Givealittle campaign to place a strip of Awaroa beach in the hands of the New Zealand public, another local crowdfunding effort has been launched – this time to cover the court fees of Bradley Ambrose in his defamation case against John Key.

Mr Ambrose was the cameraman who recorded the apparently private conversation between Mr Key and John Banks during a symbolic tea ceremony that signalled the PM’s nudge-nudge-wink-wink instruction to National supporters to vote for the then-ACT leader in the Epsom electorate before the 2011 election.

The cameraman says he accidently recorded the two politicians’ exchange, which has since entered the lexicon as “the teapot tapes”; Mr Key has consistently maintained Mr Ambrose did so on purpose after media were asked to leave the Newmarket cafe where the publicity stunt was staged.

Calling it an example of “UK-style News of the World tabloid tactics” that he was determined to stand against, Mr Key laid a complaint with the police, who eventually decided not to press charges after several months of investigation.

As a result of Mr Key’s remarks, Mr Ambrose – who says he had been a lifelong National supporter before the incident – is suing the PM for damages of $1.25 million.

That sum breaks down like so:

  • $500,000 dollars in aggravated damages relating to comments made by Mr Key at a media conference three days after the cup of tea meeting

  • $500,000 for an interview Mr Key gave to TV3's Firstline the following day

  • $250,000 for comments Mr Key made to journalists at a stand-up press conference in Upper Hutt two days after the incident

Mr Ambrose, who says his ability to earn a living has been adversely affected by Mr Key’s allegations, apparently can’t pay the $38,000 of court fees required for the case to go ahead on April 4.

Hence the crowdfunding campaign, set up by AUT journalism lecturer Greg Treadwell, who frames it as a way of standing up against “the increasing pressure the fourth estate role of journalists is under from the powerful in society.”

Meanwhile, it seems Mr Key was wearing his “head-of-the-National-party hat” (as opposed to, say, his “putting-out-the-cat hat”) when he made his allegedly defamatory remarks about Mr Ambrose, as his legal costs will be covered by “the National Leader’s Office budget,” a spokeswoman has confirmed.

Although the government ended up kicking in about $350,000 to the Awaroa beach campaign, it is understood it is unlikely to contribute to the crowdfunding effort on Mr Ambrose’s behalf.

Tune into NBR Radio’s Sunday Business with Andrew Patterson, launching this Sunday morning, for analysis and feature-length interviews.

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