The Jakarta Post
Following protests from foreign media outlets, the Home Ministry on Thursday decided to revoke circulars that obliged all visiting foreign journalists to report themselves to all levels of government to detail their assignments in the country.
In addition to reporting to local authorities, the new rule also ordered visiting foreign journalists to give details about their assignments to the National Intelligence Agency (BIN).
'Today, I explained to the foreign minister [about the revocation] and I also talked on the phone with Mr. President [Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo], offering my apology to him if the circulars caused confusion [in the public],' Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
Tjahjo clarified that the circulars were aimed only at helping visiting journalists in regions across the country in case they had to deal with problems in the field and was not meant to put them under constant surveillance.
Tjahjo previously accused foreign journalists of working as spies for their respective countries during their coverage of Indonesia.
'Today we officially withdrew the circulars. For details on the reporting procedure [for visiting foreign journalists after the revocation] please consult with the foreign minister,' said Tjahjo, a senior Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician.
The new regulation quickly caused an uproar shortly after the director general of the political and general administration at the Home Ministry, Soedarmo, announced it on Wednesday.
Soedarmo said that the new regulation was a follow-up policy drawn up after ministries and state institutions in charge of supervising foreigners in Indonesia, with the Foreign Ministry as the leading institution, agreed that it was important for authorities to get briefings on the activities of foreign journalists in the country.
Soedarmo further said that the new policy only applied to visiting foreign journalists, not foreign journalists who already had their credentials and were already based in Jakarta or other cities in the country.
Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi did not return calls from the Post asking for a comments on the new reporting procedures for visiting foreign journalists in Indonesia after the revocation of the Home Ministry's controversial rule.
On Wednesday, the Foreign Ministry's information and media director, Sofia Sudharma, said that after getting visas, visiting journalists were only required to get permission from the National Police's intelligence and security division, instead of BIN, before working on their assignments in Indonesia.
Sofia said the Foreign Affairs Ministry was currently drafting a new regulation for foreign journalists working in Indonesia as part of an effort to synchronize existing regulations with the recent presidential regulation issued by Jokowi on visa exemptions for 45 countries.
On Wednesday, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Indonesia condemned the Home Ministry's new regulation, calling it an overreaction and an infringement on press freedom.
On Thursday, the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents (JFCC) also deplored the Home Ministry's move.
'The continuation and expansion of restrictive state policies on visiting journalists is a sad reminder of the authoritarian Soeharto regime and a stain on Indonesia's transition to democracy and claims by its government that it supports a free press and human rights,' the JFCC said in a statement.
The JFCC described the policy as shocking, given that Jokowi would soon make a state visit to the United States at the invitation of President Barrack Obama.
'We call on the US government to make press freedom in Indonesia a primary topic of conversation during this visit,' the statement said.
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