Dutch Reporters Kicked Out Of Papua

Dutch Reporters Kicked Out Of Papua

The Jakarta Globe
Christian Motte

Jayapura. The Immigration Department is deporting two Dutch journalists for allegedly misusing their tourist visas by covering a pro-independence rally in Papua Province last week.

Raden Hendiartono, head of immigration in Jayapura, the provincial capital, said on Sunday that Gabriela Babette, 57, and Peter Mariaw Smith, 57, both with Dutch NRC TV, had been sent to Jakarta.

"We are deporting both foreign citizens," he said. "We have given them three days to stay in Jakarta to take care of their return tickets to the Netherlands."

A third journalist, Ronald Wigman, 54, also with NRC TV, was found to have a permit to stay in Bali, Hendiartono said.

"Ronald will be questioned in Denpasar [Bali] because his documents and data are there," he said. "He went to Jakarta as he has relatives there. But it is possible he will be deported, too."

The three journalists and Elske Schouten, who is the NRC Handelsblad newspaper's Jakarta correspondent, were originally detained by immigration officials and questioned for 12 hours about their activities in the sensitive province, which is off limits to foreign journalists.

Schouten was later released and returned to Jakarta, but the three others were barred from leaving the resource-rich province, home to a low-level insurgency by members of the Free Papua Movement, or OPM.

The journalists were reporting on the return of Nicolaas Jouwe, a founder of the OPM. Jouwe came back to the country after more than 40 years exile in the Netherlands and stoked controversy by referring to Indonesia as Papua's next-door neighbor.

Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda had earlier said that the journalists would be deported for abusing their tourist visas.

On Wednesday, Papua Governor Barnabas Suebu said he regretted the detentions.

"Why should they be arrested, they have a three-day visa, during which they had the right to stay in Papua. This is strange," he said, adding that the episode could discourage tourism and harm relations with the Netherlands.

What are now the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua, once occupied by the Dutch, were incorporated into Indonesia after a 1969 UN-backed vote by tribal elders, which was widely seen as a sham.

The government heavily restricts access to the region by foreign journalists and Indonesian security forces there are accused of widespread human rights abuses.