Journalist denied visa to speak at press freedom conference by Australian government

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

A Deutsche Welle journalist was barred from speaking at a press freedom conference that occurred last week.

Mimi Mefo Takambou, an award-winning Cameroonian journalist who writes for Deutsche Welle, based in Berlin, was refused a visa to speak at the Integrity 20 conference, which ran on Friday and Saturday.

In a statement, the event organiser said it understood the Department of Home Affairs refused Takambou’s visa on the basis that they were “not satisfied that the applicant’s employment and financial situation provide an incentive to return following his (sic) stay in Australia, or to abide by the conditions to which the visa would be subject”.

“There’s no way I would leave my job at Deutsche Welle, which is my employer, which did everything possible for me to stay here. And then I’d go and stay in Australia?” Takambou told Deutsche Welle (DW).

“There’s no need for me to do that — to leave my good job here. I’m so comfortable here in Germany, I’ve been so well received, also by the authorities here. Why would I then go and stay in Australia illegally?”

Takambou is the winner of this year’s Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award, and was due to speak on Friday October 25 on media freedom and the challenges she faces as a journalist in Cameroon, Integrity 20 said in a statement.

DW reported her speech was titled “Without Fear or Favour”.

Speaking to SBS News, Takambou said she “expected more” from the Australian Government, and the decision to ban her from speaking at the conference gave authoritative governments in Africa support to continue suppressing media across the continent.

“It’s not the first time I’m being denied a visa … but denying a visa for a journalist who is coming to talk about press freedom, that is where the problem is,” she told the outlet from Germany.

“It gives me the impression that Australia is giving Africans leaders, Cameroonian leaders, or those that are trying to silence journalists, the path to continue doing what they have been doing.”

The barring of Takambou from speaking at Integrity 20 comes in the wake of whistleblower Thomas Drake’s and academic Dr Suelette Dreyfus’ ban from speaking at the Australian Cyber Conference (CyberCon).