December 6, 2000
His Excellency Abdurrahman Wahid
President, Republic of Indonesia
Office of the President
Bina Graha, Jalan Veteran No. 17
Jakarta Pusat, Indonesia
VIA FAX: 62-21-778-182
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply concerned by the prolonged detention of Swiss journalist Oswald Iten in Jayapura, Irian Jaya, on suspicion that he violated Indonesia's immigration laws by reporting without a press visa.
Police have threatened Iten with a five-year jail term for improper use of his tourist visa, according to the Agence France-Presse news service.
Iten, 50, is a veteran foreign affairs correspondent for the Zurich-based newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. On the afternoon of December 2, police arrested the journalist at his hotel in the capital city of Jayapura. His arrest followed a raid on the headquarters of the West Papua independence movement, and comes amid a general crackdown on separatist activity in Irian Jaya province.
On December 4, Iten told reporters that he was being held in unsanitary conditions along with 28 other inmates. Lt. Col. Daud Sihombing, police chief in Jayapura, said today that once the police conclude their investigation, they intend to prosecute Iten, despite the journalist's offer to leave the country immediately.
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues around the world, CPJ is dismayed that even in democratic Indonesia, it is still possible to prosecute journalists for violating visa restrictions that the former Suharto regime designed to control the flow of information. The requirement that foreign journalists obtain special permission to work in Indonesia is a restrictive, repressive relic of an authoritarian system, and is inconsistent with your administration's avowed commitment to reform.
CPJ respectfully urges Your Excellency to do everything within your power to assure that Oswald Iten is not prosecuted for his activities in Irian Jaya, and that he is released without delay.
Ann K. Cooper