Jayapura, Jubi – The Indonesian government has issued permit for 39 foreign journalists to undertake journalistic activities in Papua and West Papua provinces since last year, said a Foreign Ministry official.
Only nine foreign journalists were refused permission to cover Papua since 2013, said Siti Sofia Sudarma, the ministry’s Director of Information and Media from the Directorate of Information and Public Diplomacy, who testified in the trial of two French journalists in the Jayapura District Court on Wednesday (22/10).
“They were allowed to cover all issues in Papua and West Papua including political issues,” she said, showing the data to reporters.
The French journalists, Thomas Charles Dandois and Marie Valentine Bourrat, are on trial charged with violating Article 122 on immigration. They could face 5 years in prison.
Meanwhile, the witness Doni Alfisyahrin, the Head of Visitor Visa Division of the Directorate General of Immigration explained the difference between visitor visa and tourism visas.
“A visitor visa allow the person to carry out journalistic activities. It is possible to extend it four times up to 30 days at the local Immigration Office. A tourist visa doesn’t,” said Alfisyahrin.
He said only certain foreigners could freely use visitor visas, depending on diplomatic relations with Indonesia. “Many European countries have diplomatic relations with Indonesia and France is included,” he said.
However, Victor Mambor, Chairman of AJI Kota Jayapura said detail clarification is needed. “Is it true 39 foreign journalists were allowed cover the issues in Papua? It is true that some of them got permission to cover political issues, such as Mark Davit. But I have to say he was strictly watched while doing his reporting,” said Mambor.
Additionally, he said most foreign journalists who came to Papua only got permission to report on tourism issues such as events in Raja Ampat Island, or Lembah Baliem Festival or about the handover of Japanese soldiers’ skeleton. “But, it’s not only about getting permits or not, but the process is too long and complicated. It may be called clearing house. The government must be aware, if the permit takes too long, they will lose their momentum,” said Mambor. (Indrayadi TH/rom)