September 4, 2014
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Republic of Indonesia
Jalan Medan Merdeka Utara, Gambir, Kota Jakarta Pusat, DKI Jakarta 10110, Indonesia
Via facsimile +62 21 3483 4759 and e-mail: [email protected]
Dear President Yudhoyono,
The Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide, is writing to express its concern about two international journalists who have been imprisoned in Indonesia since early August.
The journalists–documentary filmmakers Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat–were working on a documentary for the Franco-German TV channel Arte about the Papuan independence movement, according to news accounts. They were detained while reporting on the separatist movement in the restive eastern region of Papua. Dandois was arrested along with three activists affiliated with a group that Indonesian media identified as the Free Papua Movement (OPM), an outlawed separatist organization, the reports said.
The two have been accused of entering the country illegally on a tourist visa. They could face charges of violating local immigration laws, which carry up to five years in prison, according to their lawyer and recent news reports. Local police have also considered subversion charges, reports said.
Foreign journalists are required to obtain a journalist visa in order to work in the country, but working in Papua and West Papua is deemed sensitive, and reporters must obtain an additional permission form from the country’s foreign affairs department, signed off by an array of government officials, including police and military–often difficult to obtain, according to reports.
Journalists reporting in Indonesia face other restrictions as well, according to CPJ research. They are often 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.
While we are mindful that Indonesia has achieved significant press freedom gains since the 1998 downfall of former dictator Suharto and the implementation of democratic reforms, we ask that, as your 10-year presidency ends, you consider the blemish that the jailing of journalists leaves on your legacy. As you prepare for your final weeks in office, we urge you to ensure that any charges against Dandois and Bourrat are dropped and that they are released immediately.
Dr. Desra Percaya
Permanent Representative of the Republic of Indonesia to the United Nations