BBC Journalist has to leave West Papua because her tweets “hurt feelings of the Indonesian military”

  • Print

The journalist Rebecca Henschke (see image on the left) and her camera team was forced to leave West Papua in early February for allegedly offending members of the military on her Twitter account. Henschke was in the Asmat region to cover the health situation in the area. A measles epidemic and associated malnutrition had caused the deaths of more than 60 children.

Rebecca Henschke, who has been working in Indonesia for 12 years, posted a picture of shipped goods at the port on Twitter and commented "these are the humanitarian supplies for the extremely malnourished children in Papua - instant noodles, sweetened soft drinks and biscuits". The military issued a complaint stating that the journalist had hurt the feelings of soldiers who intended to help the people in the Asmat Regency. They also claimed that Henschke’s photo shows deliveries to local shops, not the humanitarian supplies.

The journalist and her camera team were not allowed to continue their work and had to leave West Papua. West Papua is the only region in Indonesia for which foreign journalists have to go through a  lengthy approval process. The BBC team had such a work permit. The expulsion of the journalists in response to a Twitter post is a clear indication for the strong limitations on press freedom in West Papua, particularly if sensitive issues are covered.