The International Federation of Journalists has sent a letter of protest to the President of Indonesia, Megawati Soekarnoputri condemning the introduction of restrictions against foreign journalists reporting on the conflict in Aceh.
1 July 2003
Her Excellency Megawati Sukarnoputri
President, Republic of Indonesia
Office of the President
Bina Graha, Jalan Veteran No. 1
Jakarta Pusat, Indonesia
Via facsimile: +62-21-526-8726
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation of journalists representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide, is deeply concerned over the Indonesian Government’s attempts to restrict reporting by journalists of the continuing conflict in Aceh.
According to our information, Presidential Decree No. 43/2003 restricts foreign journalists to the major cities, unless otherwise accompanied by a military escort. We understand that foreign journalists must now register with the Foreign Ministry before they can obtain a permit from the Directorate General for Immigration and the Ministry of Justice before they can enter Aceh. In addition, we understand that there have been long delays in issuing the letters of recommendation that are required for foreign media to report in Aceh.
Further, foreign journalists are now required to report their movements to military commanders in every place that they report from.
If journalists do not comply with these new rules they can be prosecuted and banned from reporting in Aceh, and removed from Aceh within 24 hours.
There are new restrictions also for the local media in Aceh. Indonesians must now apply for a permit from the foreign ministry in order to work for a foreign media company, and local media is prohibited from sharing video footage with foreign media. The military has the power to evict them from Aceh if they violate these rules.
The IFJ condemns the current restrictions due to their role in prohibiting independent journalism in Aceh.
The IFJ calls upon the Government of Indonesia to repeal the current restrictions as they are in blatant violation of press freedom, and seriously curb the ability for journalists to move with freedom and to report information without fear of reprisal.
In a separate incident, the IFJ is deeply concerned over the recent arrest of a Japanese photographer Takagi Tadatomo, who was detained on 25 June, in Aceh. It is reported that he was arrested for not carrying any accreditation, and has since been released.
Also of great concern is the arrest of American freelance photo-journalist William Nessen, who was attempting to independently cover the army’s offensive against the rebels of the Free Aceh Movement. He has been detained by police in Banda Aceh since June 24, accused of violating immigration laws and ‘abusing his journalist’s visa’ His current arrest warrant is valid until 11 July and he faces up to five years in prison.
The IFJ demands that the Government of Indonesia immediately release Nessen and repeal the current restrictions against foreign and local journalists working in Aceh. It is of vital importance for citizens to have full access to correct, up to date and non-biased information, particularly in times of conflict. It is crucial that these restrictions are repealed to ensure press freedom in Indonesia.
· Condemning the arrests of the two foreign journalists
· Condemning the recent restrictions on foreign journalists covering the conflict in Aceh
· Urging the Government of Indonesia to release Nessen
· Urging the Government to repeal the restrictions allowing foreign and local journalists to cover the conflict free from reprisal and constriction.
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