JANUARY 23, 2005
Posted: January 27, 2005

William Nessen, freelance

Authorities detained Nessen at Polonia Airport in the northern Sumatran city of Medan after the American journalist visited the tsunami-ravaged province of Aceh. Nessen was flown to Jakarta and deported on the following day, January 24. He had previously been jailed in Aceh for 40 days in 2003 after reporting on rebels in the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

Immigration spokesman Muhammad Indra told The Associated Press that airport officers had mistakenly given Nessen a visa upon his arrival on January 2 because they did not know that he was barred from entering the country until August 2005.

In 2003, CPJ strongly protested Nessen’s imprisonment, which came at the beginning of government efforts to control reporting on the rebel movement in Aceh. Nessen was traveling with GAM rebels and feared he would be targeted by the military when the Indonesian government declared martial law at the beginning of a major offensive against the rebels in May 2003. Initially accused of being a spy, Nessen was later charged with immigration violations and deported. At the time, the Indonesian government barred foreign journalists from entering the region, and banned local journalists from covering the rebels’ side of the conflict.

Restrictions on foreign journalists in Aceh stayed in place until the December 26 tsunami led the government to allow aid workers and journalists into the hard-hit province. Some of the government’s limitations, such as requiring that reporters register with authorities and seek military escorts when traveling outside of the major towns, were re-introduced in mid-January.