Jakarta. Media freedom organization Reporters Without Borders has condemned the Indonesian government for imposing a ban on a French journalist after releasing a documentary on the conflict in Papua.
The group called on President Joko Widodo to honor his promise of opening up the restive province to foreign media.
Bangkok-based reporter Cyril Payen was able to visit Papua in mid-2015 after obtaining all the necessary authorization. But the French Ambassador in Jakarta was summoned to the Indonesian Foreign Ministry after Payen’s documentary, “Forgotten War of the Papuas,” was broadcast by France 24 on Oct. 18, 2015.
In November, Indonesian officials in Bangkok notified Payen he was now "persona non grata" in Indonesia. Last week, he was told his request for a visa to make another documentary had been rejected.
“We firmly condemn this flagrant violation of media freedom and this discrimination against an independent journalist who has committed no crime,” Benjamin Ismaïl, head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk, wrote in a statement.
Ismail said the move against Payen demonstrates the election promise of President Joko Widodo to open up Papua to foreign journalists was deceptive.
“We urge him to keep this promise and to let foreign journalists do their job without having to fear surveillance, censorship or reprisals by the authorities,” he added.
Foreign journalists have long complained of the lengthy and complicated process to obtain permits to report on Papua, the only place in the country where such permission is required.
Permit issuance is rare with each request reviewed by over a dozen government agencies, including the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) and the Indonesian military.
Indonesian ranked 138th from 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index with a rating of 40.99, behind Thailand, Timor Leste and Brunei.