Indonesia deports two foreign journalists

New York, November 18, 2009—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the Indonesian government’s decision to deport Raimondo Bultrini, a reporter with Italy’s weekly L’Espresso, and Kumkum Dasgupta, an assistant editor with India’s Hindustan Times, for lacking accreditation

The two reporters were arrested and interrogated for several hours by police on Tuesday and later handed over to immigration authorities in Riau province in the center of Sumatra, according to local news reports. They were allowed to stay in a hotel after several hours of questioning and were deported today through the national capital, Jakarta, the reports said.  

Both journalists were covering protest activities staged by the environmental activist group Greenpeace against deforestation around the province’s Kampar Peninsula. Two Greenpeace activists were also deported on immigration violations. According to reports, the journalists said they believed they held the proper permits for news reporting.

“The deportation of journalists Raimondo Bultrini and Kumkum Dasgupta is wholly out of step with Indonesia’s recently improved press freedom situation,” said Shawn W. Crispin, CPJ’s Southeast Asia Representative. “The expulsion of foreign journalists harks back to the country’s authoritarian past, not its democratic present.”

Jumanter Lubis, head of Riau province’s immigration office, told the state-run Antara news agency that the two reporters were deported because they lacked journalistic permits to report from the area and violated the terms of their tourist visas. He also said that while foreign journalists may work on tourist visas, they must obtain news coverage permits from the Ministry of Communications and Information, according to the Jakarta Post.

The rapid and continued destruction of Indonesia’s tropical rain forests is an increasingly sensitive news story amid growing concerns about the impact deforestation has on global climate change. Indonesia is a high carbon emitter and politically powerful corporations involved in clearing land for palm oil plantations and paper production contribute largely to the environmental degradation.

Indonesia has achieved significant press freedom gains since the 1998 downfall of former dictator Suharto and the implementation of democratic reforms. Nonetheless, reporters are still frequently barred from certain sensitive areas of the country, including the eastern Papua province, where the military has come under fire for abuses in combating a low-intensity separatist insurgency.