New York, August 4, 2003—American free-lance journalist William Nessen was released on Sunday, August 3, after being convicted the previous day on immigration charges. The Banda Aceh District Court sentenced Nessen to 40 days in jail, time he had already served.
Chief Justice Syafruddin Nasution convicted Nessen of reporting without informing local authorities in war-torn Aceh Province, according to The Associated Press. Nessen, 46, is scheduled to be deported from Indonesia today and is barred from entering the country for one year.
He was arrested on June 24 after spending several weeks with the separatist Free Aceh Movement (known by its Indonesian acronym as GAM). Since the launch of a massive military offensive in Aceh on May 19, Indonesian authorities have barred journalists from visiting rebel areas.
“We are relieved that Nessen is now free to leave the country,” said CPJ deputy director Joel Simon. “But he was unjustly imprisoned for his work as a journalist. We again call on Indonesian authorities to lift the harsh restrictions on journalists trying to cover military operations in Aceh.”
CPJ has strongly protested Nessen’s imprisonment, noting that his prosecution is part of a broader effort by the Indonesian government to control reporting on the war in Aceh. An accredited correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle, Nessen has told CPJ that he was writing a book and gathering footage for a documentary about the war in Aceh.