French journalists handed short jail terms in Papua

Agence France-Presse

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French journalists handed short jail terms in Papua


Lawyer says the pair can go home next week

JAYAPURA, Indonesia – Two French journalists were Friday, October 24, handed short jail terms for illegally reporting in Indonesia’s restive Papua province, but will walk free next week after already having served the time in custody, their lawyer said.

Thomas Dandois, 40, and Valentine Bourrat, 29, were detained at the start of August while making a documentary for Franco-German television channel Arte about Papua’s separatist movement.

Indonesia is deeply sensitive about journalists covering Papua, where a low-level insurgency against the central government has simmered for decades, and rarely grants visas for foreigners to report independently in the region.

At the trial in Jayapura, the capital of Papua, the pair were charged with breaking immigration laws since they were reporting with tourist, not journalist, visas – a crime punishable by up to 5 years in jail.

Prosecutors had sought a 4-month sentence during the trial, which started this week, saying the journalists had admitted their mistake and apologized.

However a panel of judges handed them a sentence of only 2 months and 15 days, their lawyer Aristo Pangaribuan told AFP. They will be released next week, he said.

“This decision is good because they will go home on Monday,” said the lawyer.

“But from a legal perspective, this is not very good because it opens the door for the criminalization of journalistic activtities.”

They did not plan to appeal, he added.

Foreign journalists detained in the past for illegally reporting in Papua were swiftly deported. – 

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