The trial of two British journalists in an Indonesian court for allegedly filming a documentary about piracy in Malacca Strait has set a very bad precedent for press freedom, their lawyer said.
'It has been in conflict with President Jokowi's policy of giving foreign journalists more access,' Todung Mulya Lubis, the lawyer of the two journalists told thejakartapost.com on Friday.
Neil Bonner, 32, and Rebecca Prosser, 31, appeared at their second hearing on Thursday at the Batam District Court in Riau Islands, accused of having worked on the film while only on tourist visas, Todung said.
'I hope the court give jail term of only the length of their detention period so far, so that they can be deported,' he said, adding that prosecutors had requested that they get five year in jail.
According to Todung, foreign journalists who work without journalism visas should be simply deported instead of being brought before a court, adding that his two clients have been detained for the past four months.
The two UK citizens are charged with breaching Article 112 of Law No. 6/2011 on immigration, which carries a maximum sentence of five years' imprisonment and a Rp 500 million (US$35,000) fine.
He was also concerned about the use of handcuffs and prison uniforms for his clients during the trial, noting that the treatment was not reasonable given his client's offenses.
"What they did was just an administrative violation. This case will cast a dark image over the freedom of the press message spread echoed by Jokowi," he added.
Batam-based chairman for the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Zuhri Muhammad said that law enforcers should not have detained them.
'This trial means that the authorities have criminalized the journalists for doing their job,' Zuhri said.
Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders (RsF) calls on the Indonesian authorities to stop abusing its draconian immigration legislation and to drop proceedings against the two journalists.
"The only sensible thing for the judge to do is to rapidly acquit the two journalists and those who were working with them. They were just doing their jobs as investigative reporters in a hotspot for maritime piracy in Southeast Asia," said Benjamin Ismail, the RsF's Asia-Pacific desk head.
Indonesia is ranked 138 out of 180 countries in the 2015 Press Freedom Index released by RsF.
Prosser and Bonner work for the British documentary film producer Wall to Wall. They came to Indonesia in May to make a National Geographic-funded documentary about piracy in the Malacca Strait, near Singapore.
The Indonesian navy arrested them, along with nine Indonesian nationals on Belakang Padang Island in Batam while they were filming a re-enactment of pirates attacking an oil tanker on May 28. (ami/dan)(++++)