- The Washington Times - Monday, April 4, 2016

The Australian government is facing backlash for spending millions on a fictional film aimed at dissuading asylum seekers from entering the country.

“The Journey,” a 90-minute telemovie commissioned by the federal immigration department, follows the journey of a group of Afghan asylum seekers trying to enter Australia by boat. It made its debut on television in Afghanistan last week and has also been broadcast in Iran, Iraq and Pakistan, The Telegraph reported Monday.

The Department of Immigration and Border protection paid Put It Out There Pictures $4.34 million to produce the movie and an additional $1.63 million to Lapis Communications to promote the film, The Huffington Post Australia reported.

The film faced backlash after it was revealed that Lapis Communications is owned by Saad Mohseni, who fled to Australia from Afghanistan.

A spokeswoman for Lapis defended Mr. Mohseni’s involvement and denied they were producing government propaganda.

“The backers of the film are credited, that is neither hidden or denied,” said Sarah-Jean Cunningham, director of operations and business development, The Guardian reported. “More importantly, the ideas and values around the film are grounded in addressing a very serious and tragic issue — with the ultimate objective of saving lives.”

Ms. Cunningham also denied that the fee earned by Lapis Communications was excessive.

“The cost is reflective of the extent of that significant scope of work,” she said.

A spokesperson from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection explained that market research shows television soap operas and telemovies are an effective way to reach a target audience when delivering complex messages, The Huffington Post reported.

“Independent market research in these countries has revealed misunderstandings and false rumors about Australia’s policy, and a perception that Australia remains a preferred destination country for those seeking to travel illegally,” the spokesperson said.

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