After holding French journalists Valentine Bourrat and Thomas Dandois in the eastern province of Papua for 70 days, the Indonesian authorities announced yesterday that they will be tried on a charge of misusing an entry visa, which carries a possible five-year jail sentence.
The authorities decided to go ahead with a trial in Papua’s capital, Jayapura, on 20 October despite many international calls for their release, including a petition launched by Reporters Without Borders and the Bourrat and Dandois support committee that has been signed by more than 8,000 people worldwide.
Reporters Without Borders appeals to the Indonesian justice system, now responsible for their continuing detention, to release the two journalists and dismiss all charges.
Bourrat and Dandois were arrested on 6 August for working as journalists after entering the country on tourist visas. In the past, the Indonesia authorities have usually just expelled journalists caught doing this.
Reporters Without Borders again calls for a display of leniency by the authorities in this case. Indonesia cannot pride itself on being the world’s third biggest democracy without respecting fundamental freedoms and human rights.
Indonesia has taken over the Global Government Partnership’s presidency and is preparing to participate in the 10th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Milan and the next G20 meeting in Australia, so it has everything to gain by demonstrating its commitment to freedom of information and the fundamental and universal right to inform.
As one of the latest countries to sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in 2006, Indonesia cannot ignore the UN Human Rights Committee’s General Comment No. 34, adopted in 2011.
This comment says that it is breach of the covenant to “restrict freedom of movement of journalists and human rights investigators within the state party (including to conflict-affected locations, the sites of natural disasters and locations where there are allegations of human rights abuses).”
Reporters Without Borders also points that that, as part of its Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council in 2012, Indonesia undertook to "ensure fair and proper legal action".
Indonesia’s low ranking in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, 132nd out of 180 countries, is due in part to the lack of transparency and restrictions on reporting in Papua.