Pacific Media Watch

4 February 2018

INDONESIA: BBC journalist thrown out of Papua for 'hurting soldiers' feelings'

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BBC journalist Rebecca Henschke (left) is escorted out of Papua by the Indonesian military. Image: Instagram

By Adam Harvey of ABC News
JAKARTA (ABC News/Pacific Media Watch): An Australian journalist has been expelled from the Indonesian province of Papua after her tweets angered the military.

Authorities said BBC Indonesia bureau chief Rebecca Henschke was escorted out of the province after her social media posts "hurt the feelings of soldiers".

Foreign reporters are not normally allowed into Papua because of Indonesia's sensitivity about the independence movement there, but restrictions have been loosened to allow coverage of a measles and malnutrition crisis that has killed scores of children near the town of Agats.

Henschke and a BBC TV news crew had permission to report on the crisis but she was detained and questioned after she posted several tweets from Papua.

One of the tweets shows a photo of supplies sitting on a dock and says, "This is the aid coming in for severely malnourished children in Papua - instant noodles, super sweet soft drinks and biscuits."

Another tweet says "children in hospital eating chocolate biscuits and that's it".

Henschke was questioned by military intelligence and police for five hours on Thursday afternoon.

Held for 24 hours
She was then held by immigration officers for 24 hours before being escorted out of Papua yesterday.

The BBC crew are now back in Jakarta.

"The tweet is not in line with the truth," said the spokesman of the military in Papua, Colonel Muhammad Aidi.

"What was captured in the photo of the speedboat dock is the supplies from merchants who happened to be in that place," he said.

Those tweets remain up on Henschke's account.

She deleted another tweet that showed a photo of soldiers with a caged young bird.

Colonel Aidi said the military objected to that tweet because it implied the soldiers were involved in an illegal wildlife purchase.

"The soldiers were looking at the birds that were offered to them," he said.

"How come Rebecca wrote and uploaded the picture like that? This is defamation; someone's picture was taken secretly then distributed to media with information that is not in line with the truth."

Colonel Aidi said it was because of this tweet that Henschke was questioned by Asmat police department.

Henschke, 37, is originally from Armidale in NSW.

She has been reporting from Indonesia for 12 years.

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