'No fly' list journalist forces flight diversion

US authorities ordered an Air France flight from Paris to Mexico to stay out of US airspace because a journalist on board appeared on their "no-fly list", the airline and his publisher say.

Air France says the April 18 flight was forced to divert to the French Caribbean island of Martinique before continuing its journey and it is considering asking the US Transportation Security Administration for compensation.

A spokesman for French publisher Le Temps des Cerises says the suspect passenger is Franco-Colombian journalist Hernando Calvo Ospina, who has written on revolutionary movements in Cuba and Colombia.

"Hernando, who was heading to Nicaragua to research a report, thus found out that he is on a 'no-fly list' that bans a number of people from flying to or even over the United States," the publisher said on Friday.

It accused the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of being behind Ospina's blacklisting, and noted the journalist was working on a book about the US spy agency.

Air France said the flight had not been headed to a US airport so it had not sent US authorities the passenger manifest, although one was sent to Mexico. The crew was informed of the ban as they approached US airspace.

Ospina, the author of several books and a contributor to the leftwing French political monthly Le Monde Diplomatique, told AFP he was informed of the order to divert the flight by its co-pilot.

"I was speechless and my first reaction was to ask, 'Do you think I'm a terrorist?'," he said. "He replied 'no' and said that was why he told me about it, adding that it was extraordinary and the first time it had happened on an Air France plane."

Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, US officials have maintained a secret "terrorist watch list" of individuals forbidden to fly into or out of the United States because they are presumed to pose a security threat.

It is a controversial tool in America's war on terrorism arsenal, amid claims that, in addition to known extremists, peaceful critics of US policy and people with similar names to suspected militants have been listed.