60 Minutes crew ‘detained’ on island nation
A 60 Minutes crew, including Channel 9 journalist Liam Bartlett, has reportedly been "detained" in a hotel room on a remote island near Fiji.
Radio New Zealand (RNZ), the Kiwi equivalent of the ABC, reported that the five-member crew was arrested soon after it arrived in the central Pacific island nation of Kiribati on Monday.
The story was confirmed by a second local media organisation, Pacific Islands News Association (PACNEWS), which reported the crew was being held in its hotel.
According to PACNEWS, Mr Bartlett and his team are "being held under house arrest" at the Utirerei Hotel in Ambo, Tarawa, until their scheduled flight back to Nadi, Fiji, tomorrow.
It is understood however, that Mr Bartlett and his team agreed to stay in their hotel until their departure flight, after a meeting with authorities on Wednesday for a story didn't eventuate.
However a senior government official, who did not want to be identified, has told PACNEWS, the group falsely declared why they were visiting Kiribati.
"From my understanding, the 60 Minutes crew is still in Tarawa and will return on their intended flight back on Thursday. They are however being detained due to their entry into the country under false pretences," the official told the publication.
"When they arrived they declared that they were here for a meeting and failed to mention their filming intentions, thus the false declaration grounds. If they had applied for their permits before arrival as advised, this would not have happened."
The official said the group was forbidden from carrying out any filming as it "did not declare this activity to immigration upon their arrival".
"I'd like to stress again, the reason for their detainment is that they signed off false and misleading information on the purpose of their visit and conducted their business without proper documentation," the official said.
"Since they have breached the conditions of their visitor's permit, their presence in the country is now unlawful and they have to remain in the hotel until departure."
In a statement sent to news.com.au, a spokesperson for Channel 9 said the crew had submitted applications for filming approval, however further forms were denied on Wednesday morning.
"The 60 Minutes crew travelled to Kiribati on Monday," the statement read.
"Before leaving, they submitted applications for filming approval. On arrival they arranged a meeting with authorities including the Executive Assistant of the President and a Senior Representative of the Immigration Department to discuss the application.
"Further forms were submitted and a request was made for expedited approval. That request was declined this morning and the 60 Minutes team were asked to remain in their hotel until the next flight out, which was their scheduled departure flight.
"The crew is not under detention or house arrest as has been incorrectly reported, and the issue does not affect the story being worked on."
According to the Kiribati Government website, any foreigners who enter for filming or research purposes must sign a 13-page agreement and obtain a permit before arrival.
News.com.au understands the government may also charge $A3000 for any media-related filming and research activities conducted on the island.
The permit instructs that the principal researcher or filmmaker must deposit copies of the recorded or processed film and research materials, a copy of audio and recording obtained in the process of filming and researching, including storylines and questionnaires to the office of the president before leaving Kiribati.
Kiribati is in the spotlight over climate change concerns.
The rising ocean has broken through freshwater ponds on some of the islands, threatening numerous communities with some villages already gone.
Earlier this week, Kiribati President Taneti Mamau said he would not move his people on the island to Fiji, despite the likelihood that flooding of the island would become worse.
News.com.au has contacted the Kiribati Police Department and Channel 9 for comment.