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Proposed restrictions on journalists by Indonesia

Proposed restrictions on journalists' access to conflict areas

ACTION ALERT - INDONESIA

31 January 2001

SOURCE: Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), New York

(CPJ/IFEX) - In a 30 January 2001 letter to Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, CPJ expressed its alarm over a proposal announced last week by Indonesian Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab that could severely restrict foreign journalists from traveling to a number of crisis-prone regions in Indonesia.

Shihab's proposal would require visiting foreign journalists to be cleared in writing by security forces before visiting Aceh, the Malukus, and Irian Jaya, all areas that have seen bitter ethnic and sectarian violence in recent months. A foreign ministry statement last week said foreign journalists could be detained by police and returned to Jakarta if they failed to receive permission to visit these regions. A number of foreign

correspondents visiting Indonesia have already been warned by Indonesian

embassy officials abroad that they may not visit some areas.

CPJ is concerned that this policy could be used as a wedge to erode hard-won gains for press freedom in Indonesia. Travel bans on reporters were frequently exploited by the dictatorial Suharto regime to control coverage of issues throughout the country. Such restrictions are a threat to all journalists - both foreign and local - and are incompatible with the public's need for information.

RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Send appeals to the president: - expressing the belief that restrictions on the movement of foreign reporters are an unacceptable infringement on press freedom - respectfully urging His Excellency to publicly clarify this issue and to instruct the foreign ministry to allow reporters reasonable access to all parts of Indonesia, without interference by the military - further urging his government to consider lifting existing requirements that visiting journalists apply for special journalists' visas as a precondition for covering events in Indonesia - recalling that such visa requirements have been used as a pretext by security forces to harass and detain foreign journalists on a number of occasions in the past

APPEALS TO:

His Excellency Abdurrahman Wahid President, Republic of Indonesia Office of the President Bina Graha, Jalan Veteran No. 1 Jakarta Pusat, Indonesia Fax: +62 21 778 182

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

For further information, contact Asia program coordinator Kavita Menon (x140) or Asia research associate Areta Lloyd (x117) at CPJ, 330 Seventh

Ave., New York, NY 10001, U.S.A., tel: +1 212 465 1004, fax: +1 212 465 9568, e-mail: asia@cpj.org, Internet: http://www.cpj.org/

The information contained in this action alert is the sole responsibility of CPJ. In citing this material for broadcast or publication, please credit

ENDS

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