New York, December 14, 2000 — CPJ welcomes the release of Swiss journalist Oswald Iten, who had been imprisoned in Jayapura, Irian Jaya, since December 2 on suspicion that he violated Indonesian immigration laws by reporting without a press visa. Iten, 50, a veteran foreign affairs correspondent for the Zurich-based newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), faced a five-year jail term if convicted.
Police freed Iten from his cell last night, December 13, and authorities have begun preparations for his deportation. Iten will be flown to Jakarta on Saturday, and is required to meet with Indonesian officials there before his official discharge. NZZ reported that Iten’s lawyer in Jayapura posted bail to secure his release.
Foreign journalists are required to apply for a special press visa in order to work in Indonesia, and this restriction has been used to prevent the international media from reporting on politically sensitive subjects, including human rights abuses. Iten’s arrest followed a raid by Indonesian security forces on the headquarters of the West Papua independence movement, and comes amid a general crackdown on separatist activity in Irian Jaya Province.
Lt. Col. Daud Sihombing, the Jayapura police chief, told the Australian Associated Press news agency that Iten’s detention was intended as a warning to foreign journalists reporting in Indonesia. “There is an educational aspect to this case for anyone else who wants to commit the same violation in the future,” he said.