A man held in immigration detention has launched a Patreon account, calling for donations to support his writing, after the blog he used to accuse the government of corruption was suspended by the Medium platform.
Nauroze Anees, 32, has spent the last three years in Australia’s onshore immigration detention system, and is currently held in Sydney’s Villawood Immigration Detention Centre.
Until last Thursday, he ran a blog called #DiaryOfaDetainee on Medium, which he used to make allegations of corruption and criminal activity by the Australian government and others in the detention system, as well as describing life in detention.
But overnight on Thursday, his blog was suspended. His old posts are no longer available online.
Now, Anees has started an account on Patreon — a platform commonly used by freelance journalists to earn a living — which allows people to sign up as members and pay a regular small subscription fee for access to a creator’s work.
Anees told BuzzFeed News that he wishes to “bring the truth” about detention to the Australian public. “It’s their right to know what’s being done under their name with their taxpayer dollars,” he said.
He said he started his blog to “speak up” against the injustice and suffering he said he observed in detention. Detainees in Australia are allowed access to mobile phones, and some regularly blog and tweet about their circumstances, following a 2017 Federal Court ruling that overturned the blanket ban on phones in detention.
In February 2019 Anees used his first blog post to suggest government employees were involved in corruptly reinstating the cancelled visas of serious criminals after receiving bribes. The allegations were then reported in Nine (formerly Fairfax) newspapers.
Anees’ most recent post, published on Wednesday, accused the government of serious misconduct. He also alleged that a fellow detainee was paid to “carry out a hit” on him because of his earlier allegations of corruption. BuzzFeed News is not suggesting the allegations are true.
Anees said the suspension of his Medium account was a rough blow: “I’ve had everything that I loved taken away from me. Now they are taking away my voice.”
In his call for Patreon subscriptions, Anees wrote that he aimed to “reclaim our voice”. He pledged to launch his own website, which would host his writing and live-streamed videos. He also wants to write a book.
He wrote that in detention he had no income and needed to fund things like a mobile recharge card to continue his writing.
After Anees appealed the suspension of his account, Medium wrote to him saying that it had reviewed the account. It said he had violated Medium’s policies around harassment, privacy and reputation, including “bullying, threatening, or shaming someone”, and posting private communications between individuals.
Anees maintains he has not violated several of the policies cited by Medium. He said his writing was in the public interest. “I welcome any civil or defamation cases from any government actors if they feel defamed,” he said, “but I’m confident no such suits will be lodged as I back up all my blogs with solid and irrefutable evidence.”
Anees believes the Australian government is responsible for his blog being taken down. The Department of Home Affairs did not respond to questions about whether it had any involvement in its removal.
In his February post Anees wrote that a convicted drug trafficker, who was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison, had bragged that he could have his visa reinstated for $80,000. The man’s visa was reinstated in 2017, but he denies Anees’ claims.
After 10 News First broadcast an interview with Anees conducted by journalist Hugh Riminton, Dutton issued a scathing media release about Anees, calling him a “convicted criminal and liar” and describing the allegations as “completely false”.
Department secretary Michael Pezzullo confirmed in Senate Estimates in February that the department was investigating the allegations. By October that investigation had not been concluded, and the department did not respond to a question this week about its status. The allegations were also referred to the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity.
In Wednesday’s post Anees included audio he had recorded of the detainee he claimed had been paid to harm him, making threats of violence. He said the detainee had punched him and stolen his mobile phone. He included a medical report showing he sustained injuries to his eye and face, and a report about his missing phone.
Anees wrote that he complained to the Australian Federal Police, which referred it to the Australian Border Force (ABF). His blog included a letter from the ABF, saying that referral to the AFP had been rejected.
Tweets from an account in the name of the detainee Anees accused of attacking him say the man is now also at Villawood, calling Anees a “piece of shit” who had written a “fake article” about him.
Anees’ Wednesday blog also included a letter written by the ABF in July, advising him that he would be removed from the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation centre over safety concerns. Soon after the letter arrived he was moved to Villawood.
The post also included serious allegations against other members of the government and people working at, and detained in, detention centres.
Anees has been in Australia since 2007, when he came from Pakistan on a student visa. After falling in love with a woman who has a severe mental illness, he dropped out of university to become her full-time carer. He became homeless and committed a number of lower-level offences, serving three months in prison.
His student visa was cancelled and his application for a partner visa was rejected — a decision he is fighting in the courts.
Pakistan’s high commission has raised Anees’ case with Australian authorities.
He has been held in detention centres in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Christmas Island. He suffers from mental illness and physical ailments.
In response to BuzzFeed News’ questions, Medium said it did not comment on individual accounts, but that all posts and accounts on Medium were assessed and bound by its rules.