December 18, 2003
Free hostages, say journos
New Zealand journalists are joining international calls to free two journalists being held hostage in Aceh.
Their union, the EPMU, has asked Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff to do all he can to persuade the Indonesian government to remove obstacles preventing journalist Ersa Siegar and cameraman Fery Santoro being freed.
They were abducted on June 29 while on assignment in Langsa in Aceh by the Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (Free Aceh Movement).
The 500,000-member International Federation of Journalists, to which New Zealand journalists are affiliated, today delivered a letter to the Indonesian president demanding that the IFJ and the Red Cross be allowed free movement in Aceh so that they might safely retrieve the journalists from GAM.
“The IFJ gained agreement from GAM to hand over the journalists on August 19,” said IFJ president Christopher Warren of Australia.
“However, the journalists are still being held captive because the Indonesian military will not allow the free movement of human rights organisations in the province to secure the release of the two journalists.
“The Government of Indonesia can no longer hide behind the idea that these journalists are being held hostage by the GAM. In truth, it is the lack of action from the Indonesian Government which is stalling these journalists from returning home.”
Mr Warren said that there had been a sharp increase in attacks and violence against the media since the start of the war in Aceh on May 19. The Indonesian military had prohibited the reporting of statements by GAM, which had in turn used this restriction to justify attacks against journalists.
EPMU national secretary Andrew Little said that journalists played a vital role in increasing society’s understanding of events, and they must be free to report news without fear of harm.