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Jakarta Post

4 months in jail sought for French journos

  • Nethy Dharma Somba

    The Jakarta Post

Jayapura   /   Fri, October 24, 2014   /  09:40 am
4 months in jail sought for French journos

A visit gone wrong: French journalists Thomas Charles Dandois (left) and Marie Valentine Bourrat (second right) attend a court hearing in Jayapura, Papua, Thursday. Prosecutors sought a four-month jail term and Rp 2 million (US$174) fine for each defendant for alleged visa violations. JP/Nethy Dharma Somba

Prosecutors asked on Thursday the Jayapura District Court to sentence French journalists Thomas Charles Dandois and Marie Valentine Bourrat to four-month jail terms and fine them Rp 2 million (US$174) each for alleged visa violations.

Prosecutor Sukanda also asked that each of them be required to pay court expenses of Rp 2,000.

The sentence demand was delivered by prosecutor Sukanda during the trial presided over by judge Martinus Bala and judging panel members Maria Sitanggang and Irianto.

Dandois and Bourrat, said Sukanda, were proven to have violated Article 122 of Law No. 8/2011 on immigration, by carrying out journalistic activities while using tourist visas.

An aggravating factor is that both journalists could report negatively on Indonesia overseas, while a mitigating factor is that the defendants admitted to their wrongdoing and apologized for creating the case.

Evidence in the form of passports, laptops and press cards has been returned to its owners while other evidence, such as cameras, was seized by the state.

When asked why the prosecution had sought a five-year prison sentence but only demanded four months, Sukarna said the five-year sentence was just to act as a deterrent to ensure other foreigners did not commit the same violations when visiting Indonesia.

The defendants'€™ lawyer, Aristo MA Pangaribuan, appreciated the sentence demand but remained firm in his belief that Dandois and Bourrat should be released because they had not been proven guilty of misusing their visas.

'€œBased on witness testimonies and evidence presented in court, Dandois and Bourrat were not proven to have conducted journalistic activities. An expert witness from the Press Council also testified that both of them had only conducted research, and that conducting research was not a journalistic activity,'€ said Aristo.

Aristo appealed to the panel of judges to acquit his clients and restore their good names as well as dignity, and asked that the case expenses be borne by the state.

The defense lawyer presented expert witness Yoseph '€œStanley'€ Adi Prasetyo, head of the Indonesian Press Council'€™s legal commission, who said the case against the French journalists was a red mark for press freedom in Indonesia, adding that he hoped it would be the first and the last such case in the country.

'€œIf there are journalists who violate immigration laws, just deport them. Why should they be criminalized?'€ he said.

The activities carried out by Dandois and Bourrat in Papua, said Prasetyo, could not be categorized as journalistic because the pair was simply conducting research for a documentary project.

'€œIf they were just conducting research, it'€™s not a journalistic activity. Anyone can do research. Journalistic activity is when they take pictures and publicize them in the media,'€ he said.

He cited that journalists and intelligence agents both gather data and then record it in writing, but that intelligence agents report to their superiors and do not publicize their work, while journalists write to publish, which he defined as journalistic activity.

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