IFJ Condemns Restriction on Press Movement in Aceh After Tsunmai Disaster

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has expressed outrage over the restrictions imposed on journalists in Aceh, Indonesia, announced on 13 January 2005.

“In the midst of this overwhelming tragedy, opening up the previously closed Aceh was a positive step towards greater media freedom in the region,” said IFJ President, Christopher Warren today in a letter to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The country's military forces state that they cannot guarantee the safety of foreigners. In response, Indonesian leaders are limiting access in Aceh for foreign aid agencies, relief workers and journalists.

“The decision to reintroduce restrictions is deeply disturbing,” stated the President of the IFJ, the global organisation representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide.

The government has ordered aid workers and journalists to declare their travel plans or face expulsion from Aceh. Furthermore, all foreign troops have been ordered out of the country by 31 March, according to a statement by Indonesian Vice-President, Jusuf Kalla.

The IFJ is also concerned by recent reports that free reporting has been curtailed in the days following the disaster, even before the restrictions were announced.

In particular, the IFJ denounces the treatment of two Australian journalists ordered by the Indonesian Special Forces to leave an area near the regional capital Banda Aceh after witnessing a clash on 6 January between Indonesian soldiers and alleged separatists.

The IFJ is also concerned about the case of the Chicago Tribune bureau chief and an Indonesian freelance journalist detained overnight in Meuloboh on 29 December.

“A free, independent and impartial media is essential to ensure the relief effort is transparent and corruption free,” says Warren.

The IFJ has today written a letter of protest to the President of Indonesia calling for free movement of journalists and expressing deep concern over imposed restrictions.

For more information contact: Christopher Warren +61 (0) 411 757 668
The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries