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'Egregious Attack On Press Freedom': Manus Journalist's Arrest Condemned

Behrouz Boochani has been a vital source of information from the secretive centre.

23/11/2017 4:12 PM AEDT | Updated 23/11/2017 4:55 PM AEDT
MEAA/Supplied

The arrest of a multi-award winning journalist and asylum seeker Behrouz Boochani on Manus Island has sparked accusations of an attack on press freedom.

PNG authorities began moving on Australia's moth-balled detention centre on Thursday in an attempt to move the roughly 400 men to alternative -- but reportedly not-yet-ready -- accomodation on the island province.

Boochani, who has been a vital source of information from inside the centre, was detained on Thursday as police moved in. He stopped tweeting at about 11.30am, shortly before footage purporting to show him being led away from police was tweeted out by fellow asylum seekers.

He was released a few hours later, after international rights body Amnesty International and the Australian Media and entertainment arts alliance demanded he be let go.

"The arrest of Behrouz Boochani as a so called ring leader of the peaceful protest on Manus Island is deeply misguided," said Kate Schuetze, Amnesty International's Pacific Researcher who has just returned from Manus.

"It violates his rights, and sends a terrible signal about PNG's intentions with regard to the remaining 400 plus men. He must be immediately and unconditionally released from police custody."

MEAA Chief Executive Paul Murphy said Boochani appeared to have been deliberately targeted by Papua New Guinea police during the crackdown because of his high-profile as a journalist reporting from inside the detention centre.

"Without Behrouz's courageous reporting at great personal risk, the world would be less informed about the crisis on Manus Island," Murphy said.

"If, as the case appears to be, he has been targeted and arrested because of his profile and his role as a journalist in an attempt to silence him, this is an egregious attack on press freedom that cannot be let stand.

"We call on the Australian and PNG governments to release him from custody, assure his safety, and not to hinder him from continuing to perform his role as a journalist. We will also be bringing this to the immediate attention of the International Federation of Journalists, the global body for journalists."

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