Newspaper ready for police tea tape search

The Herald on Sunday says its staff will co-operate fully with police when they show up to search the newsroom in their investigation into the teapot tapes.

Police are expected to search the newspaper today for documentation on whether freelance cameraman Bradley Ambrose was paid for his recording of a cafe conversation between Prime Minister John Key and Act's Epsom candidate John Banks.

The newspaper's editor, Bryce Johns, said he would give police what they wanted.

"They've been in touch and said that they require some items from us. We've gathered those together, now that they've got a search warrant, and we'll comply with that,'' he told Radio New Zealand today.

"I imagine, from what they're after, it'll be pretty perfunctory. They'll pick up some things and leave again.''

Johns said he understood police would not wait until after a High Court hearing, which is expected to rule on whether the recording was illegal.

The New Zealand Herald's Auckland premises - which includes the Herald, Herald on Sunday and Herald Online - is one of four media organisations served with police search warrants.

These can be executed any time within a month of November 18.

The others are TV3, Television New Zealand and Radio New Zealand.

Police intended to execute the search warrants around mid-morning today - although TV3 has been told a search will not take place until after the court hearing tomorrow.

Police are to meet Radio NZ staff today to discuss the warrant and the station's intention not to divulge information that may jeopardise its sources.

Mr Key laid a complaint with police last week, alleging that the recording was illegally obtained.

The tape has dominated the political landscape, sidelining the parties' campaigns in the lead-up to the election and putting Mr Key's political judgment and the future of the Act Party in the spotlight.

Yesterday, Mr Key stood by his claim that it was a private communication, which would make it illegal to intentionally record.

And he said he had no intention of apologising to Ambrose for comments the cameraman has called "highly defamatory''.

On Friday Ambrose's lawyers sent a letter to representatives of Mr Key, senior minister Steven Joyce and the National Party requesting a public retraction and apology for comments that they claim have damaged Ambrose's professional reputation.

Comments outlined in the letter include claims of criminal and unethical behaviour, and comparisons to the News of the World.

It noted that any apology would not remove Ambrose's right to start defamation proceedings.

Yesterday, Mr Key said he was "not in the slightest'' concerned about possible defamation action.

- Derek Cheng, New Zealand Herald

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