JAYAPURA, Indonesia – Activists are calling on recently inaugurated President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to lift long-standing restrictions on foreigners covering the restive Papua province in the wake of the sentencing of two French journalists on Friday, October 24, for illegal reporting.
Thomas Dandois, 40, and Valentine Bourrat, 29, were each given a 2.5-month jail term, but will walk free on Monday after having already served the time in custody awaiting trial.
The pair were detained at the start of August while making a documentary for Franco-German television channel Arte about the separatist movement in eastern Papua.
Indonesia is deeply sensitive about journalists covering Papua, where a low-level insurgency against the central government has simmered for decades, and rarely grants visas for foreigners to report independently in the region.
Jokowi, the country’s first leader from outside the political and military elite, was sworn in Monday, October 20, with many hoping for a fresh new style of government in the world’s third-biggest democracy.
While on the campaign trail in June, Jokowi indicated he would open access to Papua and West Papua for foreign journalists and international organizations.
“Why not? It’s safe here in Papua. There’s nothing to hide,” Jokowi said on June 5 when asked whether or not he would allow access to the country’s easternmost provinces for foreign reporters and campaigners, the Jakarta Post reported.