AUCKLAND (Pacific Media Watch): The New Zealand government and the French Embassy in Wellington were today called on at a vigil to put pressure on Indonesia to free two French journalists and their sources imprisoned in West Papua.
The vigil, organised by West Papua Action Auckland, said that journalists Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat and a West Papuan human rights defender who was jailed after granting them an interview, Areki Wanimbo, were being subjected to "incredibly draconian" threats of a trial.
Dandois and Bourrat were jailed seven weeks ago by Indonesian authorities for allegedly breaching their tourist visas through reporting on human rights abuses in West Papua.
Maire Leadbeater of West Papua Action Auckland said the only way journalists could get stories out of West Papua was by bending the rules.
Leadbeater spoke out against the "intense interrogation" that West Papuan activists who met with Dandois and Bourrat had been subjected to by the Indonesian military.
The organisation was very grateful to the journalists and their sources for putting themselves at risk in order to get information out into the world, she said.
Activist Margaret Taylor spoke out against an attack this week on Anum Siregar, the lawyer representing Wanimbo.
"It does seem at the moment that there is an increase in attacks," she said.
Anita Rosentreter of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU), which organises journalists, said her union had formed a New Zealand media freedom network which would take up the cause of the journalists and Wanimbo.
New Zealand journalist members of the network believed that any one of them could end up in the same situation if they went to West Papua, Rosentreter said.
Sydney-based journalists would also be holding a vigil today and in Wellington, New Zealand, Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty was set to hold a solidarity meeting for the journalists and their sources on the steps of Parliament.
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reports that Dandois and Bourrat have been detained in West Papua longer than any other foreign journalists previously.
"None since Oswald Iten of the Swiss daily Neue Zurcher Zeitung, who was jailed for 12 days in Jayapura in 2000, have been detained for anywhere near as long," the news site reported today.
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