Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government to end the “absurd situation” in which Australian investigative journalist Mary Ann Jolley is banned from visiting New Zealand because she was deported from Malaysia in 2015 in connection with her reporting.
“I’m basically regarded by New Zealand as a criminal,” Mary Ann Jolley said after New Zealand Immigration last week prevented her from boarding a flight from Sydney to Auckland, where she wanted to go for personal reasons, reports RSF.
The ban is the result of a very literal interpretation of Section 15 of New Zealand’s Immigration Act, which prohibits the entry of a person “who has, at any time, been removed, excluded, or deported from another country”.
Jolley’s deportation from Malaysia in 2015 was a result of her investigative reporting in Kuala Lumpur for Al Jazeera on a corruption scandal involving the sale of French submarines and a related political murder, in which then Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was allegedly implicated.
She has since returned many times to Malaysia.
When she contacted New Zealand’s consulate in Sydney, she was told that she would have to request a “special direction” every time she wanted to visit New Zealand.
“As Australian citizens can travel freely to New Zealand, it is unacceptable that Mary Ann Jolley is being penalised in this way for her reporting in a third country five years ago,” said Asia-Pacific director Daniel Bastard.
“We call on immigration minister Iain Lees-Galloway to intervene immediately on her behalf in order to end this utterly Kafkaesque situation.”
When travelling, Jolley always carries Malaysian government documents explaining the reason for her deportation in 2015 and certifying that she committed no crime.
It is the height of absurdity that she is now banned although she was allowed into New Zealand with no problem last year to cover the Christchurch mosque shootings.
New Zealand is ranked 7th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.