A film commissioned by the Immigration Department to discourage asylum seekers from paying people smugglers to get to Australia was only released with English subtitles to “mitigate negative media attention”, recently released documents reveal. The Journey, the feature-length film that cost the Australian government $6 million to dissuade people in the Middle East from seeking asylum in Australia by boat, was uploaded to YouTube this year, initially without English subtitles. It was only uploaded with subtitles after a freedom of information request.

A further FOI request asked to see the communication within the department about this decision, and while the documents were mostly redacted, this proposal to release the film included the following justification (the acronym was not explained, though likely refers to the Joint Agency Task Force):

“… to deal with such requests, the JATF recommends putting an English-subtitled version of the telemovie on Youtube … to enable viewing by other journalists and interested members of the Australian public. This would further promote transparency and serve to mitigate the negative domestic media attention around taxpayers not being able to view a product they paid for. This approach would not require approval from the Service Delivery Coordination Committee as it is not paid domestic advertising.”

Peter Fray

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