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Two CARICOM journalists expelled without justification

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders expressed surprise that the government of Antigua and Barbuda expelled the former editor of the daily "Antigua Sun", Vernon Khelawan, and a colleague of privately-owned Observer Radio, Lennox Linton, on 12 and 13 June 2007.

Both men are citizens of countries of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), with agreements allowing free movement for citizens of its 15 member states and the worldwide press freedom organisation said it found it hard to believe it was a straightforward administrative decision.

"The expulsion of Vernon Khelawan and Lennox Linton quite rightly gave rise to strong feelings among journalists from the English-speaking Caribbean and particularly within the Association of the Caribbean Media (ACM) which represents them," the organisation said.

"The government of Antigua and Barbuda will have to explain this step, which is contrary to the accords between CARICOM states. We hope that it is not linked to the work of those involved," the organisation said, adding that it would be helpful if the men's countries of origin, Dominica and Trinidad and Tobago, reacted to the incident.

Trinidadian Khelawan and Linton, who is Dominican, were expelled 24 hours apart, Khelawan first after he had just gone through Antigua customs upon his arrival with no problem, and Linton the following day.

At the time of his expulsion, Khelawan, a freelance journalist, had said that he was working on cooperation programmes between the ACM and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). He had been refused renewal of his work permit when it expired in December 2006 without any reason being given. The journalist said he believed it was a "political decision".

The CARICOM countries are linked through regional integration agreements, particularly the Chaguaramas treaty of 1973 (amended in 1997), which set up a common market and makes it easier for the citizen of one country to work in another. It was on this basis that the ACM and the Antigua and Barbuda Media Congress (ABMC) strongly reacted to the expulsion of the two journalists, stressing their involvement in the region's professional bodies, the privately-owned daily Guyana "Stabroek News" reported.

The states of Dominica and Trinidad and Tobago, which are signatories of the CARICOM treaties, have made no comment about the case.

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