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JAKARTA, Indonesia – “We firmly condemn this flagrant violation of media freedom and this discrimination against an independent journalist who has committed no crime.”
These were the words of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) after French journalist Cyril Payen’s request for a visa to film a second documentary was turned down.
Payen became persona non grata in Indonesia in November, after his documentary “Forgotten War of the Papuas” was broadcast on October 18. The documentary also resulted in the French ambassador being summoned to the Indonesian foreign ministry.
Payen, a Bangkok-based reporter specializing in Southeast Asia, had all the necessary permits during his last visit to West Papua in mid-2015. West Papua is the half of the island of New Guinea that is part of Indonesia.
“President Joko Widodo has hereby demonstrated that his election promise to open up West Papua to foreign journalists was pure deception. We urge him to keep this promise and to let foreign journalists do their job without having to fear surveillance, censorship or reprisals by the authorities,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.
The president has pledged to end decades-old reporting restrictions for foreigners in Papua, although many rights groups say the government continues to block access.
Two French journalists, Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat, were arrested while preparing a report there in August 2014 and given a two and a half month prison sentence for violating Indonesia’s immigration law. It was under the same law, under which two British journalists, Rebecca Prosser and Neil Bonner, were sentenced to two and a half months in prison on November 3, 2015 for violating the terms of their visas.
There are still regular flare-ups of violence in Papua, which consists of two provinces, Papua and West Papua. Jakarta took control of the region, which forms half of the island of New Guinea, in 1963 from former colonial power the Netherlands.
Indonesia is ranked 138th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. – Rappler.com