Indonesia denies media visa for France 24 reporter

Bangkok, January 12, 2016 – The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Indonesia’s refusal to issue a media visa to French journalist Cyril Payen. The Bangkok-based senior reporter for France 24 television received notice of the denial from Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs without explanation on Friday, he told CPJ.

The Indonesian government’s decision follows the broadcast of Payen’s documentary, “The forgotten war in Papua.” The film, broadcast by France 24 on October 18, examined allegations of state-sponsored human rights abuses and conflict-related casualties over the past 25 years in the country’s eastern Papuan provinces.

President Joko Widodo announced last May that his government would allow foreign journalists to report unrestricted from Papua, breaking a decades-long virtual blackout on international news coverage of the restive region. Payen applied for and received the required media permits to report from Papua, and reported freely from the region for about a week last July, he told CPJ.

“Indonesia’s move to deny France 24 reporter Cyril Payen a journalistic visa smacks of retaliation for his critical reporting,” said Shawn W. Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “President Widodo should make good on his previous pledge to improve access to Indonesia for foreign journalists by reversing this arbitrary and ill-conceived decision.”

CPJ advocated for the removal of the foreign media restrictions as an important precondition for Widodo to achieve his campaign vow to bring peace and prosperity to Papua and West Papua provinces. The region has been locked in a long-simmering struggle between Indonesian security forces and the secessionist Free Papua Movement.

Foreign journalists have been targeted for harassment under Widodo’s rule. British filmmakers Rebecca Prosser and Neil Bonner were held in custody for nearly five months before being sentenced in November to two and a half months in prison for violating the terms of their tourist visas. They were first apprehended by the Indonesian navy while reporting a documentary on piracy commissioned by the magazine National Geographic.

Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Binsar Panjaitan in November 2015 told CPJ that Widodo’s administration was committed to ensuring the press has free access to Papua.