The press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders and journalists’ unions are calling for the release of Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat, two French TV reporters who were arrested in the West Papua area of Indonesia two months ago.
Reporters Without Borders launched a petition on Monday October 6, calling for Dandois and Bourrat’s immediate release.
“The aim of this petition is to make the Indonesian authorities realise that it is absolutely unacceptable for them to continue detaining these journalists with the aim of deterring media coverage of Papua,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said in a statement.
The two journalists, who work for the independent production company Memento, were filming a report on living conditions and separatist claims in West Papua for the French-German TV channel Arte. Police arrested them on August 6 and have detained them in the provincial capital, Jayapura City.
The Indonesian government rarely issues visas to journalists requesting to cover West Papua, and the reporters entered Indonesia with a tourist visa. The authorities have accused them of breaking immigration law.
Offences punishable by five years in prison
“Bourrat and Dandois did not apply for press visas because such visas are rarely granted and would have resulted in restrictions on their ability to work freely,” Deloire said.
Journalists found to have entered the region illegally are usually deported, but Bourrat and Dandois are now facing accusations of illegal labour, which is punishable by five years in prison and a 500 million-rupee fine (32,000 euro). It is now up to the provincial prosecutor’s office to decide whether to press charges and put them on trial.
The journalists’ unions SNJ and SNJ-CGT, too, issued a joint call for the release of the two reporters on Monday.
“The Indonesian authorities obviously want to make an example in this case so as to ban all access to Papua - a region our two colleagues had the courage to travel to and report despite the difficulties caused by continuous guerilla operations,” they said in a statement.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-10-07