British journalist living in Ecuador is deported from Argentina

Freedom of expression advocates are looking for answers after a British journalist hoping to cover the World Trade Organization conference in Buenos Aires was deported from Argentina. At dawn on Dec. 8, Sally Burch was sent back to Quito, Ecuador where she works as executive-editor at Agencia Latinoamericana de Información. According to the Guardian, she was included on a list of 63 people banned from attending the conference from Dec. 10 to 13.

The British site said that before being put on a plane to Ecuador by authorities at Ezeiza International Airport in the Argentine capital, Burch said: “I’m a British journalist and I’m being rejected entry to Argentina.”

She was allegedly stopped by immigration soon after arriving in Buenos Aires, where she was told she was on a list of people whose entry was prohibited. She told an Argentine radio station that the attitude of the Argentine government was “not very democratic,” the Guardian reported.

Argentine President Maurício Macri’s government cited safety reasons in rejecting the entry of journalists and other NGO representatives from around the world, according to the Guardian.

In a press release, the Ministry of Foreign and Religious Affairs said that some people registered for the conference "had made explicit calls for manifestations of violence through social media, expressing the intent to generate schemes of intimidation and chaos.”

According to Ecuadoran organization Fundamedios, Burch was allegedly prevented from entering the country for not having informed immigration that it was a work trip. Other reasons given by the Argentine government were that she allegedly did not have a return ticket and “there was a violation of article 35 of the Migration Law,” which concerns necessary documentation for entry to Argentina, the organization said.

The British journalist filed a petition for habeas corpus with the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS for its acronym in Spanish). This was revised and accepted by the Federal Chamber of La Plata after Burch had already been deported, according to Argentina’s Página 12.

According to the site, the British editor believes she was stopped from entering the country to cover the conference because of her “disruptive” thinking concerning the “neoliberal and pro-corporate agenda."

"I never had disruptive attitudes, and still less advocated violence. Therefore, the only explanation I can find for my deportation from Argentina is that the government finds my opinions and analysis 'disruptive'. I say it to use a term employed by a member of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” she wrote, according to Página 12.

The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Edison Lanza, expressed his concern on Twitter about the case of the British journalist.

"We are in contact with the Argentine government concerning the deportation of journalist Sally Burch. It would be serious to prevent her from covering the WTO summit because of her editorial line or her critical opinions towards the organization of world trade,” he wrote.

The Forum for Argentine Journalism (FOPEA) also rejected Burch’s deportation. The World Association of Community Radios (AMARC) said her detention at the airport was “illegal and a grave limitation of freedom of expression.”

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.