Journalists denied admission to United States
- U.S. officials say the reporters, who were coming to cover a video-game conference, lacked the proper visas to do journalistic work in the United States.
May 23, 2003 — Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, a free-press advocacy group, is demanding an investigation into the expulsion of six French journalists traveling to the United States to cover a video-game show who were stopped at Los Angeles International Airport.
Details of exactly what transpired remain sketchy, with the government and journalism advocates disagreeing on the reasons for the denials and even the nationalities of the journalists.
According to a report from the press group, the six French journalists were detained overnight before they were put on airplanes back to France.
“They were detained, they were questioned and, yes, they were handcuffed” but that is standard procedure, Francisco Arcaute, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Immigrant and Customs Enforcement told the Associated Press, according to an AP report Thursday. “Everything went according to the book,” he said.
“These journalists were treated like criminals,” Robert Menard, secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders, complained in a letter to Howard Leach, the U.S. ambassador in Paris.
The journalists tried to enter the country under a visa-waiver program that allows citizens of 27 countries to visit the United States for up to 90 days on business and pleasure.
According to Virginia Kice, spokesperson for the Bureau of Customs and Boarder Patrol, the intercept involved three French reporters and three British reporters who were coming to the United States to cover the video show arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on May 12.
In an e-mail Wednesday, Kice wrote that “the reporters in question applied for admission as visitors for business under the Visa Waiver Program. Section 217(a)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Acts states that anyone applying for admission to the United States under the VWP must meet the definition of a temporary visitor for business or pleasure. This is defined in Section 101(a)(15)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act as: ‘an alien (other than one coming for the purpose of study or of performing skilled or unskilled labor or as a representative of foreign press, radio, film, or other foreign information media coming to engage in such vocation) having a residence in a foreign country which he has no intention of abandoning and who is visiting the United States temporarily for business or temporarily for pleasure.'”
A journalists coming to cover an event does not qualify as a business traveler because they are coming here to do journalistic work, she said.
Reporters Without Borders reported on May 20 that Alexandre Alfonsi of Tele 7 Jours, Stephanie Pic of Tele Poche and Michel Perrot of TV Hebdo arrived at the airport on May 10. Two passed through immigration at first but Perrot was denied entrance and eventually all three were detained.
Three other French journalists received similar treatment when they arrived at LAX on May 11, the group said. They were Thierry Falcoz, editor in chief of Game One cable television, and two cameramen for Game One, Laurent Patureau and Alex Gorsky.
© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press