New York, August 16, 2001—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) welcomes today’s release of Philippe Simon and Johan van Den Eynde, two Belgian documentary filmmakers who were held hostage by a faction of the Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka, or OPM) for more than two months in the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya, also known as Papua.
The armed group, which is fighting for independence from Indonesian rule, kidnapped the two filmmakers in early June to attract international attention to their cause.
“CPJ is greatly relieved that Simon and van Den Eynde are finally free and appear to be in good health,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “However, we remain concerned about risks faced by other journalists covering Papua.”
Titus Murib, leader of the OPM faction responsible for the kidnapping, told a representative from the Jakarta office of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance who witnessed the release that OPM would guarantee the safety of journalists reporting in the restive territory.
“We hope the OPM pledge means the group will never again seek to achieve its propaganda goals by kidnapping journalists,” Cooper said. “CPJ calls on rebel groups and state security forces in Indonesia to respect the right of all journalists to work without fear of harassment, abduction, or other reprisals.”