IFJ Calls on Indonesian President to Release French journalists

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has written to the outgoing President of the Republic of Indonesia, Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, calling on him to allow the immediate release of two French journalists detained in West Papua since last month.

The request from IFJ Asia-Pacific calls on Dr Yudhoyono to give a presidential order to release the pair as evidence of the country’s more open position to journalists working in West Papua. The call is being backed by the French Union of Journalists (SNJ, SNJ-CGT, CFDT-Journalists), Indonesia’s Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ).

Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat were arrested and charged on August 8 in Wewena, West Papua, along with three members of the Free Papua Movement (OPM). They have been charged with violating Act 122 on misusing stay permits of Law No. 6/211 on immigration.

On September 2, the lawyer for the two journalists said “there is a huge possibility that both of them will go to trial”. He added that, if found guilty, they face up to five year’s jail. Historically, journalists found to be violating a visa in Indonesia have been immediately deported. But Indonesia’s Immigration Chief in Jayapura, Gardu Ditiro Tampubolon, has already stated there was “strong evidence” against the pair and that they were “certain they have committed an immigration violation”.

The Immigration Chief said Tampubolon said today that they would finalise the case files and submit to prosecutors in two weeks. Indonesia’s prosecutors will then determine whether the case proceeds to court. However, the IFJ’s concern lies also in the country’s sluggish legal system which sees suspects often detained for lengthy periods before being officially charged.

In its letter to Dr Yudhoyono, the IFJ Asia-Pacific said: “The contradictory comments coming from Indonesia regarding journalists’ rights is both confusing and damaging for the security of the media internationally as well as local media workers. With this in mind, we call on you now in your final weeks as Indonesia’s President to order the immediate release of Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat and allow their safe and secure passage home.”

In earlier statements, Indonesia’s Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) has deplored the arrest and advised police not to pursue the case and release the journalists.

The French Union of Journalists has also issued a statement saying:  “We urge the government of this country to stop these operations from another era and immediately release our colleagues who are here doing their mission: to inform the public and work for freedom of expression.”

You can read the full IFJ letter to the Indonesian President here.

You can read the letter from the French Union of Journalists to the Indonesian President here and here in English.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

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