Two French journalists were working, says expert witness
Nethy Dharma Somba
The Jakarta Post
Activities conducted by two French journalists, Thomas Charles Dandois and Marie Valentine Bourrat, during their stay in Papua could be categorized as journalistic activities as defined by Law No. 40/1999 on the press, said an expert witness during the trial of the two defendants in Jayapura on Wednesday.
'Both of them had conducted journalistic activities that the 1999 Press Law defines as activities to find out, posses, keep, manage and spread information comprising verbal news, pictures and voice through print and electronic media, as well as other forms of media,' the Foreign Ministry's director of information and media, Siti Sofia Sudarma, during the hearing at Jayapura District Court on Wednesday.
Siti, who spoke as an expert witness in the trial, said any foreign journalists who intended to report on the news in areas across Indonesia must submit a coverage permit request to the Indonesian representative in the countries where they came from. The representatives would send the request to the Foreign Ministry in Jakarta, which would process the request with a clearing house.
'Eighteen ministries and related institution are involved in the process to issue a permit,' said Siti Sofia, in the trial led by Marthinus Bala.
She further said Dandois and Bourrat had never undertaken this procedure and had entered Indonesia to work as journalists using a tourist visa.
Siti said the Indonesian government allowed foreign journalists to cover the news in Papua and West Papua as long as they complied with existing rules and regulations.
According to the ministry's official data, 28 foreign journalists had submitted permit requests to cover news in Papua and West Papua in 2013, of which 21 had been successful.
As of October this year, 20 foreign journalists had submitted a coverage permit request to the ministry, 18 of which were granted for coverage in Papua and West Papua.
'In the two provinces, they are allowed to cover the news in all fields, including politics,' said Siti.
She further said apart from evidence obtained by the Foreign Ministry, the two French journalists had admitted they had misused their tourist visas to report on news in Papua and West Papua.
Bourrat and Dandois were arrested in Wamena on Aug. 6 and have been detained since Aug. 14 for allegedly breaching immigration rules. They are on trial on charges of 'abusive use of entry visas' with hearings on Monday and Tuesday. (ebf)
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