Journalists on smuggling boat intercepted off Australia

SYDNEY (AFP) - Two men claiming to be journalists were found on a people-smuggling boat intercepted off northern Australia, officials said on Monday, with reports that they had spent three days at sea and were badly sunburnt.

The pair, one Dutch and one United States national, were on board a vessel carrying 57 passengers that was detected by the navy's HMAS Armidale off remote Christmas Island overnight, a immigration official told AFP.

"Two people who disembarked from a suspected irregular entry vessel at Christmas Island today have presented as journalists," an immigration department spokeswoman said.

"These people had valid travel documents and held Australian visas. They have been cleared by immigration on arrival."

Immigration could not confirm which, if any, organisation the men claimed to be from but there was media speculation they were a freelance reporter and photographer working for a major US daily.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said the men had spent three days at sea and were badly sunburnt.