Indonesia deports French journalists

26th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Two French journalists will be deported from Indonesia on Wednesday after they filmed a peaceful demonstration in Papua province, where the government is accused of rights abuses.

Baudouin Koenig and Carole Helena Lorthiois were expelled from the Papuan provincial capital Jayapura on Wednesday morning and have been ordered to leave Indonesia, Jayapura district immigration head Robert Silitonga said.

"After questioning them, we found that they had committed permit violations so they'll be deported. They had filmed a protest and they did so outside the areas they were permitted," he said.

The journalists had just arrived in Jayapura to make a documentary about an ongoing census when they stopped to film a human rights rally outside the Papuan legislative council.

Silitonga said Koenig only had a permit to film "cultural activities" in certain areas, while Lorthiois did not have a journalist visa.

"What they were filming had nothing to do with their documentary," he added.

Papua, on the far eastern extreme of the Indonesian archipelago, is off-limits to foreign journalists and aid workers without special permission, which is rarely given.

Claims of genocide against the ethnic Melanesian majority, gross human rights abuses and military attacks on local villagers cannot be independently verified because of the restrictions.

Koenig said he had spent months gaining the necessary visas and permission to visit Indonesia, including Papua, to cover a wide range of issues relating to democracy and economic development.

"My only fault was to cross a demonstration on the way to the hotel. As any journalist, I stopped the car (and) I have begun to film," he said in a statement sent to AFP.

"Can anybody, after having experienced the press freedom in all the rest of Indonesia, believe that filming a peaceful demonstration can be a crime?"

He said he was filming in front of police and had no intention of hiding his activities.

© 2010 AFP

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