Indonesia arrests two French journalists reporting in Papua

New York, August 11, 2014–Indonesian authorities have detained two French journalists since last week, according to news reports. Documentary filmmakers Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat were detained after reporting on the separatist movement in the restive eastern region of Papua and have been accused of entering the country illegally on a tourist visa, the reports said.

Foreign journalists are required to obtain a journalist visa in order to work in Indonesia. For coverage of Papua and West Papua, reporters must obtain an additional permission form from the country’s foreign affairs department, which must be signed off by an array of government officials, including police and military, according to reports. Foreign journalists who are detained in the region without a journalist visa or official permits are usually deported immediately, according to CPJ research.

It is unclear what visa the journalists used to enter the country.

“These arrests serve as a flagrant reminder that the Indonesian government continues to restrict journalists from reporting on sensitive areas of the country,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz. “Indonesian authorities should release Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat immediately.”

Dandois and Bourrat were working on a documentary for the Franco-German TV channel Arte about the Papuan independence movement, according to news accounts. Dandois was arrested with three activists affiliated with a group that Indonesian media identified as the Free Papua Movement (OPM), an outlawed separatist organization, according to the reports.

Arte did not immediately respond to CPJ’s request for comment.

Indonesia has achieved significant press freedom gains since the 1998 downfall of former dictator Suharto and the implementation of democratic reforms. Still, journalists are frequently barred from covering 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, according to CPJ research.