Police in the Indonesian province of Papua arrested and jailed two French documentary-makers Aug. 6, Australian media reported.
Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat were making a documentary for the television channel Arte when they were detained, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Dandois was arrested along with three members of the separatist Free Papua Movement.
A police spokesman said that Dandois came to Papua as a tourist but was “carrying out illegal reporting activities,” according to the Jakarta Globe. The authorities added that they knew the journalist had contacted separatist leaders before and they have been worried that Dandois aims to destabilize the region.
Police were considering whether to charge the journalists under Indonesia’s press, criminal or immigration laws, the Sydney Morning Herald said, citing police spokesman Sulistyo Pudjo.
Foreign journalists must have special visas to work in Indonesia, and additional permissions are needed to work in the Papua and West Papua provinces, which share the island of New Guinea with the country of Papua Guinea. According to Australian media, different Indonesian authorities, including police and military, have to authorize journalist visas, making obtaining the appropriate permissions difficult. The police often claim that they deny journalists permissions for their safety.
Indonesia’s Papuan provinces have been restive since the 1970s. In the early 1960s, the newly-independent Indonesia asserted its claim on the region because it was once a part of the Dutch East Indies. The United Nations appointed Indonesia as a temporary administrator of West Papua in 1963 pending a referendum. Instead, Indonesia’s military selected 1,026 local leaders to endorse its rule in a 1969 vote.
Since then thousands of indigenous West Papuans have been killed, detained and tortured. Human Rights Watch, a New York-based rights group, said in a January letter to the European parliament it had documented hundreds of cases of excessive force in the past three years by Indonesian security forces blocking the rights of people to peacefully assemble in the region.