Pacific Media Watch

21 October 2014

WEST PAPUA: Jailed French journalists appear in court on 'immigration' charge

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French journalists Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat appeared in court for the first time yesterday. Image: Yuliana Lantipo/Jakarta Globe

JAYAPURA (Jakarta Globe / France 24 / Al Arabiya / Pacific Media Watch): Two French journalists jailed in West Papua by Indonesian military occupying authorities have appeared in court for the first time since they were arrested more than two months ago.

Valentine Bourrat and Thomas Dandois of Arte TV were not deported by the Indonesian regime for breaching their tourist visas by reporting on Indonesia's human rights abuses, but were instead subjected to 11 weeks imprisonment while Indonesia investigated various charges against them, including sedition.

Eventually, Jakarta Globe reported today, charges of violating the 2011 Law on Immigration and the Penal Code of Indonesia were laid.

According to Al Arabiya TV, the prosecution accused the pair of reporting the activities of “an armed criminal group”, the term typically used by authorities when referring to West Papuan freedom activists.

If convicted, Bourrat and Dandois face up to five years in prison - which the prosecution has asked for.

Presiding judge Martinus Bala was quoted in Jakarta Globe saying that the trial could be concluded by the end of the week.

There was no word from the newspaper on the fate of West Papuan freedom leader Areki Wanimbo, who met with the journalists before their arrest, only to be arrested himself. Wanimbo is still in jail.

Jakarta Globe reported that  the lawyer for the journalists, Aristo M. A. Pangaribuan, said the indictment against them was so vague that there should be no trial and Dandois and Bourrat should be deported to France instead.

France 24 news site said the charge sheet was only two pages long and "not serious", according to Pangaribuan.

Bourrat's mother, Martine Bourrat was in court for the start of the trial and told France 24: "I really hope my daughter can return home as soon as possible".

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Pacific Media Watch

PMC's media monitoring service

Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators. (cc) Creative Commons