The Jakarta Post
Two British journalists detained by Indonesian authorities since May for making a documentary on piracy in the Malacca Strait without proper papers could face five years' imprisonment for breaching the country's immigration laws, an official has said.
Speaking to The Jakarta Post on Wednesday, the head of the Batam Prosecutors' Office's general crimes unit, Ali Akbar, said his office had received a notification letter on the investigation order (SPDP) against the two journalists, 31-year-old Neil Bonner and 30-year-old Becky Prosser, from the Batam Immigration Office.
The pair, Ali said, would be charged under the Immigration Law, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, for working in the country while on tourist visas.
'In their case dossiers, both admitted that they were British journalists. The immigration office is still preparing the dossiers.' Ali said.
Once their dossiers are completed, the journalists, according to Ali, will undergo trial at Batam District Court.
The Malacca Strait is a maritime area that borders four states: Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. The strait connects three major seas: the South China Sea in the north, the Indian Ocean in the south and the Pacific Ocean to the east. Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu has emphasized the importance of securing the Malacca Strait from piracy.
On May 28, the Indonesian Navy patrol arrested the two journalists along with nine Indonesian nationals in Belakang Padang Island, Batam, as they were about to film a reenactment of piracy.
The nine locals have been identified as Zamira Lubis, 52, Andi Kusnanto, 36, Ahmadi, 36, Marsel Karel, 50, Indratno, 43, Apson Kakahue, 49, Samsul, 49, Diki, 28, and Lamusa, 36. The nine were released on bail on May 30.
Lamusa has said that he received US$250 for three hours of shooting.
On Tuesday, the Indonesian Navy's Western Fleet (Armabar) commander, Rear Adm. Taufiqurrahman, admitted that the Navy had been under pressure from the British government to free the two journalists.
'From the beginning, there were efforts from the UK government to free them, but I firmly said no.
We rejected such efforts,' he told the Post.
According to Taufiqurrahman, the two admitted that the documentary, which featured former pirates as actors, was to be aired on the National Geographic Channel.
'What they were reenacting was not accurate and could tarnish the image of the Malacca Strait as a crime-prone area,' he said.
A center focusing on piracy and armed robbery, the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP), said that 129 sea attacks were reported from January to September 2014, predominantly in Indonesia, the South China Sea, the Malacca Strait and the Singapore Strait.
Taufiqurrahman was quick to rebuff criticism of the Navy for halting journalistic activity. He also said that as of Wednesday, no local or international journalist associations had demanded the release of the two documentary-makers.
'We are open to the press. Yesterday, we helped a crew from China's CCTV cover problems in the Malacca Strait. We are also set to give Al Jazeera access to cover the area. If the journalistic duties are conducted openly, we will give access,' he said.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Alliance of Indonesian Journalists' (AJI) Batam chapter, Muhammad Zuhri, said his association had received a request from AJI's national board to ensure the two journalists were given their due rights while in custody at the detention center.
'We will not interfere with the legal process, but if they are tried in their role as journalists, we will demand that they be released,' Zuhri said.
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