Indonesia has refused to issue a media visa to a French journalist who produced a documentary about alleged state-sponsored human rights abuses in the easternmost Papuan provinces, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
Cyril Payen, a Bangkok-based reporter for France 24 television, received notice of the denial from Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs late last week. The notice did not give a reason, according to CPJ, a New York-based NGO devoted to press freedom worldwide.
Payen spent a week reporting in Papua in July, two months after President Joko Widodo announced that his government would allow foreign journalists unrestricted access to the region. It is home to a low-level secessionist movement and one of the world’s largest gold and copper mines.
Payen’s film, “The Forgotten War in Papua,” was broadcast by France 24 on Oct. 18, CPJ said in a statement.
"Indonesia's move to deny France 24 reporter Cyril Payen a journalistic visa smacks of retaliation for his critical reporting," said Shawn W. Crispin, CPJ's senior representative in Southeast Asia.
"President Widodo should make good on his previous pledge to improve access to Indonesia for foreign journalists by reversing this arbitrary and ill-conceived decision."
While campaigning for the presidency, Jokowi, as he is known, vowed to bring peace and prosperity to Papua and West Papua, which are among the poorest and least developed provinces of Indonesia. The area, comprising one fifth of the nation’s total land area, officially became part of Indonesia in 1969.
Jokowi announced the opening to foreign reporters during a visit to the region in May, when he also freed five political prisoners. The gestures were aimed at “building mutual trust” and “removing the stigma of conflict from Papua,” he said at the time.
Victor Mambor, head of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) of Papua, welcomed the move, saying that access to Papua for foreign reporters had been very limited for more than four decades.
“For a long time, Papuan voices have not been heard by the world,” Victor told BenarNews in May.
“The blockade on the foreign media has minimized justice for human rights violations.”
Indonesia has enjoyed robust press freedom in almost all other parts of the country since the fall of President Suharto in 1998.
Editor’s note: Victor Mambor has been a stringer for BenarNews since September 2015.