30 Oct 2019

Crew of Australia's '60 Minutes' detained in Kiribati

5:59 pm on 30 October 2019

A five-person crew from an Australian television current affairs show have been detained in Kiribati for not having the appropriate media permit.

Utirerei hotel, on the main island Tarawa.

It's understood the crew are being held under police supervision at the Utirerei Motel, on the main island of Tarawa. Photo: Utirereimotel.com

RNZ Pacific understands the crew, from the Channel Nine show 60 Minutes, arrived in Tarawa on Monday, and were being held under the supervision of immigration officers at the Utirerei Motel until they left the country on Thursday.

A hotel worker said the crew were allowed to leave their rooms but not the motel complex, and described the crew - led by journalist Liam Bartlett - as "a bit upset but OK."

A government official told RNZ that the group had been asked to stay in the motel because they arrived in the country without an appropriate media permit.

The crew hard marked on their arrival card that they were in Kiribati for a meeting, which the government said was a false declaration.

However, Channel Nine disputed that, saying they had submitted applications before their departure and had arranged meetings with senior immigration figures to discuss their application.

It said the request was declined and the crew were asked to stay at the hotel until the next flight. It said they were not under house arrest, and it did not affect the story being worked on.

The government of President Taneti Maamau tightened the criteria for media permits in the wake of the sinking of a ferry last year, which killed 95 people.

Last year, a crew from the New Zealand outlet Newshub were detained when they arrived in Kiribati to report on the ferry disaster.