Newly released documents reveal the shocking lengths New Zealand government officials went to in order to prevent me from reporting anti-government protests earlier this year.
Readers will be aware that in August I was banned from entering New Zealand to cover protests in the nation’s capital. At the time, government officials claimed it was because of a previous minor criminal conviction, even though they admitted this was not sufficient reason to ban me.
Government correspondence now shows that the whole saga began with a defamatory email from a NZ Herald reporter who asked the immigration department what they planned to do about “two far-right commentators and misinformation super-spreaders that are posing as reporters”.
Akula Sharma claimed that I had been convicted of “a serious conviction for assault” and “more domestic violence convictions”.
This was, of course, complete and utter fake news. My conviction is for a summary offence which, by definition, is not a serious conviction. And nor do I have “more domestic violence convictions”.
But documents, requested by independent NZ website The BFD, reveal those lies were the catalyst for everything that ensued.
READ THE FULL 285-PAGE FOI RELEASE
A senior immigration official responded to the NZ Herald journalist that her argument for banning me from the country “seems a bit thin”.
But then the official asked if it was an option for the immigration minister to ban me under Section 16 which lists reasons for denying a visa including “threat to public security” or membership of a “terrorist organisation”.
So the exact same official who admitted my insignificant criminal conviction “looks a bit thin” was now recommending police try to deny me a visa for being a national security threat, all the while admitting “he does have some kind of journalistic credentials”.
In other words, the 285 pages of internal government correspondence we have in our possession, confirms what we have always believed but, until now, have never been able to prove - the New Zealand government, egged on by a journalist from the NZ Herald, was trying to legally ban a journalist they didn’t like from reporting on anti-government protests.
Another immigration official, who clearly felt uncomfortable with the abuse of power, warned colleagues before they banned me that “as far as I am aware, protesting in New Zealand is legitimate and this person is coming to put their lens on it. It may not be how we see it personally, but I don’t think it is illegal”.
She advised that if they were determined to deny me a visa, they would need to attempt to do so under Section 15 even though they already knew this was insufficient grounds.
Documents reveal that, at the last moment, immigration officials decided to deny me entry under character requirements for people applying for residence visas, even though it was obvious this was not my reason for travelling.
My team at Rebel News are determined to pursue this horrific abuse of power and hold all those involved to account. You can contribute to our efforts using the donation form on this page.