Close Up staff investigated over marijuana claims
By David Fisher and Alice Neville
Sunday Feb 14, 2010
TVNZ staff under investigation for marijuana use tried to get photos taken during a smoking session deleted, according to people at the gathering.
But others who were present say the few images taken don't show anything incriminating - and TVNZ does not have copies.
Three staff at TVNZ's flagship current affairs show Close Up have been accused of smoking marijuana after filming a segment called "Reefer Madness", which screened last Tuesday. A fourth TVNZ staff member was also present.
The story showed supporters of the movement travelling to Waitangi and featured interviews with campaigner Dakta Green, previously known as Kenneth Morgan.
Online debate about the show among pro-legilisation campaigners prompted complaints to TVNZ and the claim staff socialised and smoked marijuana with the campaigners after the story.
TVNZ has refused to name the individuals involved but said a formal employment investigation is underway.
Green also declined to identify those involved - or if they had smoked. He said they had not smoked it during the trip north, despite being offered.
"We don't out people. Whether some or all of the TVNZ people had a smoke with us is something I will not confirm or deny."
Green said on arrival at Waitangi, the three Close Up staff left for their hotel. They returned with the fourth person to take evening footage.
Green said they joined reformers to socialise outside the campaign vehicle after completing their work. About 25 people were present at the time.
He said at one stage a photograph was taken and one of the TVNZ staff asked that it be deleted. The image was not deleted, "but it didn't show anything", said Green.
The person who took the images said they had not been provided to TVNZ and would not be distributed.
It was a step back from a threat by the same person last week. They told an internet forum: "Photos of journalists/cameraman, partaking of the truly miracle plant will be published here soon!"
TVNZ spokeswoman Megan Richards said the state broadcaster had received "serious allegations" and an investigation was under way.
Senior Sergeant Matt Rogers said it was unlikely police would investigate.
Employment lawyer Greg Cain said TVNZ would likely strike trouble investigating the allegation.
He said the staff concerned could have grounds to refuse to respond to the allegations because to do so would be self-incriminating.