INDONESIA: French journalists and indigenous leader at risk of prosecution in Papua

Dear friends, 

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) wishes to forward an appeal from the Human Rights and Peace for Papua – the International Coalition for Papua (ICP) regarding risks of persecution by the authorities of Indonesia against a French journalist and Papuan indigenous leader in Papua.

For more information, please visit: 

Thank you. 

Urgent Appeals Desk 
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) 

Papua/Indonesia: French journalists and indigenous leader at risk of prosecution in Papua

Dear friends,

The International Coalition for Papua (ICP) is writing to inform you of an ongoing criminal investigation against two French journalists, Mr. Thomas Dandois and Ms. Valentine Bourrat in West Papua. The journalists are charged with articles concerning treason under the Penal Code and immigration crime under the Immigration Law. In addition to the journalist, the police hold an investigation against an indigenous leader in Lanny, Mr. Areki Wanimbo, whom the journalists met during their trip in West Papua. A human rights defender who has been seen with the journalists, Mr. Theo Hesegem, has also been summoned by the police.

A conflict area where human rights violations are rampant, Papua has been strictly isolated by the Indonesian government from international journalists and bodies. A special permit from the government is required for international journalists and institutions to legally visit the area. No such permit is needed to visit other parts of Indonesia.

In May 2013, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged the Indonesian government to allow international journalists and the UN Special Procedures to visit Papua. Previously, in the UN Universal Periodic Review in 2012, a similar recommendation was given to the Indonesian government.

In accordance with international human rights standards and the international community’s demand, we unequivocally are of the view that restriction on international journalists and institutions visit to Papua should be lifted. We believe that such restriction and the arrest of the journalists as well as the Papuan leader in this case violate freedom of expression to which Indonesia has been repeatedly claiming itself to adhere.

We therefore request you to intervene in this case, by urging the relevant Indonesian authorities to drop the charges against Mr. Dandois, Ms. Bourrat, and Mr. Wanimbo. Activists providing assistance to them shall be free from intimidation, so that their human rights works are unhindered. Please also urge the authorities to open the access for international journalists and institutions to visit Papua.  

Facts of the case
Mr. Dandois and Ms. Bourrat arrived in Wamena, West Papua, on August 5, 2014, on tourist visas. The two French journalists were on the mission of gathering information on human rights situation in Papua for a documentary they were working on for Arte TV. They visited the house of Mr. Wanimbo, a Papuan indigenous leader in Lanny, on August 6, 2014, to obtain details regarding the conflict between the Indonesian security forces and the National Liberation Army of West Papua (Tentara Pembebasan Nasional Papua Barat, TPNPB). 

The journalists were accompanied by two Papuan human rights defenders, Mr. Hesegem and Mr. Logo, on their way back to the hotel. Mr. Hesegem who gave a lift to Ms. Bourrat on his motorbike, however, was followed and stopped by three unidentified police intelligence officers of Jayawijaya District Police. One of the officers was reported to make a phone call to the Chief of Jayawijaya District Police. 

Mr. Hesegem was permitted to continue his trip with Ms. Bourrat, but the journalist was later arrested at the hotel. Meanwhile, Mr. Dandois and Mr. Logo were arrested on their way back in Jalan Bhayangkara. They were all taken to Jayawijaya District Police station. 

After arresting the two journalists and Mr. Logo, the police arrested Mr. Wanimbo at his house, along with two other Papuans, Mr. Deni Dow and Mr. Wenda. They were also taken to Jayawijaya District Police station for interrogation. 

The journalists and the Papuans were subject to interrogation for 24 hours without being accompanied by any legal counsel. On August 7, 2014, Mr. Logo, Mr. Dow, and Mr. Jornus Wenda were released without charge, whereas Mr. Dandois and Ms. Bourrat were taken to Papua Regional Police for further interrogation. They are charged with misuse of permit to stay under Article 122 of Immigration Law (Law No. 6 Year 2011), punishable by maximum imprisonment of five years and fine of IDR 500 million (approximately USD 42,740). It has been reported that the journalists are also charged with articles concerning treason attempt under Articles 106 and 110 in conjunction with Article 53 of the Penal Code for an allegation on providing ammunition to TPNPB.

For his meeting with the journalists, Mr. Wanimbo is charged with complicity to misuse a permit to stay. As the journalists, Mr. Wanimbo is additionally charged with treason attempt under Articles 106 and 110 in conjunction with Article 53 of the Penal Code, for the allegation on providing ammunition to TPNPB. The treason charge on Mr. Wanimbo is reported to be also based on his activity of collecting donation for a meeting on West Papua’s membership application to Melanesia Spearhead Groups (MSG). 

Mr. Wanimbo is currently detained at Jayawijaya District Police, whereas Mr. Dandois and Ms. Bourrat are detained at Papua Regional Police. 

Relevant information
International journalists visiting Papua for journalistic works are required to apply for a special permit from the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa has previously expressed that such permit is needed solely to ensure security of the journalists, considering the unstable situation in Papua.

According to Chairperson of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (Aliansi Jurnalis Independen, AJI) in Papua, Victor Mambor, permits for international journalists to conduct journalistic work in Papua are not easy to obtain. The application may take for up to three months. In several cases where such permits were granted, the journalists had to be accompanied by Indonesian government officials.

Four Dutch journalists were previously arrested and detained for 12 hours in 2009, for covering a demonstration in Jayapura.

Indonesia is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which guarantees the right to freedom of expression. Whereas Article 19 (3) of the ICCPR recognises that freedom of expression may be restricted in certain circumstances, the UN Human Rights Committee in its General Comment 34 has specifically noted that ‘it is normally incompatible with paragraph 3… to restrict the entry into the State party of foreign journalists’. 

The Indonesian government has been repeatedly urged by the international bodies and other UN member states to lift its restriction on visits of international journalists to West Papua. At the UN Universal Periodic Review in 2012, France made a specific recommendation for Indonesia to ‘ensure free access for foreign journalists to Papua and West Papua’. In 2012, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for a similar measure to be undertaken.

How to help
Please write to the authorities listed at the end of this Urgent Action, urging them to take the following measures:

1. To drop charges against Mr. Dandois, Ms. Bourrat, and Mr. Wanimbo;
2. To ensure that any activist and human rights defenders providing assistance to the journalists are free from intimidation and legal threats;
3. To provide access for international journalists and institutions to conduct journalistic or human rights related works without restriction, in accordance with international human rights standards. 

Urgent action targets
Mr. Marty Natalegawa
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Jl. Pejambon No. 6
Jakarta Pusat 10110
Telp: +62 21 344 1508
Fax: +62 21 280 551

Gen. Sutarman
Chief of the Indonesian National Police
Jl. Trunojoyo No. 3 Kebayoran Baru
Jakarta Selatan 12110
Tel: +62 21 523 4240, 384 8537 
Fax: +62 21 720 7277 

Mr. Yotje Mende
Chief of Papua Regional Police
Jl. Samratulangi No. 8 Jayapura
Tel: +62 967 531 014
Fax: +62 967 533 763

Ms. Harkristuti Harkrisnowo
General Director for Human Rights
Ministry of Law and Human Rights
Gedung Direktorat Jenderal Hak Asasi Manusia
Jl. HR Rasuna Said Kav 4-5 
Kuningan, Jakarta Selatan
Telp: +62 21 252 1344
Fax: +62 21 4555 55676 

Mr. Hafid Abbas
National Human Rights Commission
Jl. Latuharhary No. 4-B
Jakarta 10310
Tel: +62 21 392 5230
Fax:  +62 21 392 5227

Thank you. 

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (

Document Type : Forwarded Urgent Appeal
Document ID : AHRC-FUA-004-2014
Countries : Indonesia,
Issues : Freedom of expression, Indigenous people, Military, Minorities, Rule of law,