Journalists Raise Voices in Protest Over French Colleagues Detained in Papua

Journalists Raise Voices in Protest Over French Colleagues Detained in Papua

 25 May 2010


Local members of the media have condemned Tuesday’s detention of two French journalists in Papua, saying the move undermined freedom of the press.

Victor Mambor, chairman of the Papua chapter of the Independent Journalist Alliance (AJI), said the government had crossed the line.

“We are condemning the government move to keep the journalists from doing their work. There should not be any limitation to what the reporters can or cannot cover as long as it does not violate press laws,” he said.

Baudouin Koenig, 54, and Carole Lorthiois, 27, from the French Arte television network, were brought in for questioning by the Papua immigration office on Tuesday over alleged visa violations. They were reportedly covering a protest rally in front of the provincial Regional Legislative Council (DPRD).

The chief of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights’ office in Papua, Nazaruddin Burnas, said that the pair had not secured a permit to work in the province.

“Only Baudouin holds a permit issued by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture to document cultural events in Jakarta, Gorontalo and Aceh,” he said.

“Baudouin did not however have permission to film in Papua. Carole was worse — she didn’t have a permit at all.”

The journalists now face deportation and a possible ban from coming back to the country.

The Antara news agency reported that the pair were apprehended at about 1:30 p.m. as they were filming a rally by a group calling itself the Papua National Committee.

An Indonesian woman identified as Halidah, who was supposedly acting as their translator, was also questioned by immigration officials.

Koenig, Antara said, was a producer for a Paris-based production company, Mano a Mano, while Lorthiois was working with him as a sound assistant on the project. They were said to be filming a documentary called “Indonesia Tomorrow.”

Christian Le Peutrec, the manager of Mano a Mano, told The Associated Press that the arrest would not derail the documentary project.

“We’ve talked to Baudouin on the phone. They’re being expelled from Papua. They’ll be in Jakarta tomorrow,’’ Le Peutrec said by telephone.

Officials from the Directorate General for Immigration in Jakarta declined to comment on the matter, while the France Embassy could not be reached.