Report – By Michael Bachelard
A Western journalist has been arrested and jailed in West Papua, underlining the tough approach that Indonesian authorities still take to media scrutiny in the restive region.
The police chief of the Lany Jaya area, senior commissioner Adolf Beyage, confirmed to Fairfax Media that his officers had detained Thomas Charles Tendeis, who he said was a French journalist.
“He was using a tourist visa but in fact he was doing journalistic work,” Lanny said.
The Papuan police spokesman, Senior Commissioner Sulistyo Pudjo, later said Tendeis, 40, was arrested on Wednesday in the company of three members of West Papuan organisations seeking independence.
“We’ll work out which laws should be used to charge [the suspects] — the Press Law, the Criminal Code, the Immigration Law or something else.”
“We were worried that his activities here were part of an effort to destabilise Papua,” Pudjo said.
Western reporters wanting to work in Indonesia must have a journalists’ visa, but to work in the Papua and West Papua provinces they must gain another, hard-to-get permission form signed off by the gamut of Indonesian government authorities, including police and military.
Indonesia is highly sensitive about the state of the poverty-stricken Papua and West Papua provinces, which have hosted a long-running but low-level separatist insurgency, as well as intractable poverty, social and environmental issues.
Police often argue that journalists are denied permission to enter for their own security.
Comment has been sought from the French embassy.