The Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club is concerned about the continued detention without charge of two French journalists in Papua province since early August. Of particular concern are indications that Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat, who were arrested in the highlands town of Wamena and are being held in the provincial capital Jayapura, could face a five-year prison sentence for a visa violation, or even a much more serious charge of sedition.
While the JFCC does not condone foreign journalists travelling to the Papua region and other parts of the country in violation of Indonesian regulations on visas and permits, we note that in past cases the offending journalists were quickly deported. It is unclear why this has not been done in this case.
The larger issue is the continuation of restrictive state policies on journalists reporting in the Papua region, which are a sad reminder of the Suharto regime, and a stain on Indonesia’s transition to democracy and claims by its government that it supports a free press and human rights.
The JFCC calls on the incoming administration of Joko Widodo to immediately lift all restrictions on foreign journalists travelling to the Papua region. These restrictions only harm Indonesia’s international reputation as a country that values press freedom, and encourage inaccurate and simplistic reporting of the issues in the region.
The JFCC Executive Committee