The Valley
2018 Finalist

The Valley


Wellington, New Zealand

Category Video

Overview of this campaign

"I wanted to know how my boy got killed," said Helen Thomasen, mother of Rory Malone, killed in the Battle at Baghak, August 2012.

The story of New Zealand's war in Afghanistan had never been fully told. Our soldiers went as peacekeepers but made decisions which led them into NZ's deadliest firefight since Vietnam. They were collecting biometric data that was passed onto the CIA. Our Special Forces were celebrated as heroes over a deadly firefight which we revealed they had actually provoked. Nobody, including military investigators, spoke to any of the Afghans involved - but we travelled to Afghanistan to do just that. Our objective was to show the reality of what happened: a reality the Defence Force and the Government refused to acknowledge.

A story so significant for a country so small deserved top-shelf treatment. We wanted the video to be world-class yet original. One obstacle became apparent during investigations: an enormous amount of resistance from the Defence Force. This became a major subplot and we decided to show the behind-the-scenes interactions so the audience knew what we were up against.

The investment in The Valley was about important, public interest journalism; we wanted strong public engagement and we wanted it to be noticed.

It was also crucial to us to respect the fallen soldiers and their families, who had never had the answers they wanted.

We wanted to achieve accountability from NZDF - acknowledgement that the public had been misled and that our soldiers had been unnecessarily put in danger.

Ultimately what we want is for the mistakes made to never be repeated.

Results for this campaign

The response to The Valley was remarkable.

Stuff editor Patrick Crewdson: "An investigation into New Zealand's involvement in the Afghanistan war is not an easy story to sell to an audience - it's challenging, it's not comfortable viewing. But despite that, The Valley boasted engagement at twice the level we'd usually see for even a hit video."

The critics were vocal in their praise. "They've pulled off something extraordinary here. It’s made by a team of people who’re among New Zealand's best investigative reporters and they’re pushing the boundaries of the medium with this one." - Lara Strongman, Radio NZ.

The Valley caused widespread concern at the highest levels. Former Prime Minister Helen Clark called on military chiefs to front up over the allegations, saying "I would not consider behaviour along the lines described acceptable." Eventually, the New Zealand Defence Force issued a 34-page statement conceding many of the allegations we'd raised were correct.

Politicians and others called for an inquiry, with the leader of the Green Party saying one was needed to "ensure that mistakes made in that conflict are not repeated".

But the most rewarding results were the messages that came flooding in from soldiers and their families, including this, from a soldier who was injured in the battle: "I appreciate the efforts you went through to tell the story, in particular putting yourself in danger. That was really courageous. I can tell a lot of hard work went into telling the story. I personally feel vindicated. I want to say a thank you to you and your team."



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