Al-Jazeera cancels premier, removes synopsis from website

Al-Jazeera cancels premier, removes synopsis from website

The Jakarta Post
Ary Hermawan

In what seems to be a last minute decision, television news network Al-Jazeera English decided not to premiere on Thursday a highly-sensitive documentary highlighting the plight of Papuans. It also removed the film’s synopsis from the list of feature films it will broadcast, which is published on its website.

It remains unclear, however, whether the Qatar-based TV-channel had postponed or completely called off the screening of the controversial documentary that will likely disturb the government in Jakarta. The Jakarta Post tried to reach Al-Jazeera officials for confirmation Thursday but to no avail.

The film’s screening is extremely sensitive as Indonesia will hold its second presidential election on July 8.

Titled Pride of Warriors, the documentary was directed by Australian filmmaker Jono van Hest, who claimed to have smuggled six video cameras into the troubled West Papua province. He said the filmmaking was inspired by the arrival of 43 Papuans seeking refugee status from the Australian government in 2006.

Van Hest has not replied to emails from the Post for comments.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Teuku Faizasyah said the government had not made any contact with Al-Jazeera to protest the TV channel’s decision to air the documentary and to request it cancel the screening.

“I do not know if they have called it off or postponed it. I waited for the film but it was not aired,” he said, adding the government had been disturbed by the documentary.

“It is a sensational film that is very one-sided. If it is true that the filmmaker had smuggled the cameras then he has violated Indonesian law and also the principles of journalism.”