New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has further distanced herself from a plot to stop two Australian journalists from reporting at an anti-government protest in Wellington last week.
In a press conference on Monday, Ardern was asked by reporter Sean Plunket if she had any comments on an explosive Interpol memo which revealed that Wellington's Interpol bureau went on a 'fishing expedition' to 'dig up dirt' on journalists Avi Yemini and Rukshan Fernando who were assigned to travel to the country to report on a protest at Parliament for Rebel News.
"I know nothing of what you claim on behalf of the agencies you claim," she responded.
"I am aware of someone who was recently denied access at the border, my understanding is that was because of criminal convictions that deemed them ineligible for travel."
The reporter then corrected Ardern's false claim, informing her that Yemini's 'conviction' was for a summary offence that does not reach the threshold for refusal.
"I can't verify anything you're putting to me at this time," Ardern said.
"I'm not familiar with anything that you've raised and the individual that was denied entry last week ... that was a decision at an operational level that did not involve ministers."
Interpol's memo was sent just 24 hours after The New Zealand Herald published an unattributed article laced with several false, out-of-context and misleading claims, designed to paint the reporters as 'infamous Australian far-right misinformation superspreaders' and said that the pair were 'known to spread misinformation and falsehoods on social media in Australia'.
These claims were then used in Interpol Wellington's communication with Canberra almost word-for-word.
Sarah, an immigration officer who refused to give her last name while interviewing Yemini, informed Yemini that she came to the decision on her own after reading the story in The New Zealand Herald.
Rebel News sought comment from both Interpol Wellington and Canberra but did not recieve a response prior to publication deadline.
New Zealand's government-supported mainstream media is yet to cover the story.