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Jakarta Post

Two British journalists jailed for immigration violation

  • Fadli

    The Jakarta Post

Batam   /   Wed, November 4, 2015   /  06:20 pm

The Batam District Court sentenced on Tuesday British journalists Neil Bonner and Rebecca Prosser to two months and 15 days in jail after being found guilty of violating the Immigration Law.

The court, lead by presiding judge Wahyu Prasetyo, also fined the journalists, Bonner, 31 and Prosser, 30, Rp 25 million (US$1,785).

'€œThey both are guilty of violating the 2011 Immigration Law,'€ Wahyu said.

Bonner and Prosser were arrested by a Navy patrol in Batam in May on allegations of filming a documentary on piracy in the Malacca Strait on tourist visas.

The verdict was lighter than what prosecutors had sought, which was five months in prison and a Rp 50 million fine.

Prosecutor Bani Ginting is considering appealing the verdict.

The journalists can walk free in two days, on Nov. 5, as they have already served two months and 13 days following the arrest.

Bonner protested the verdict, arguing that it constituted criminalization against press freedom.

'€œWe are sad, this is criminalization [of press] in Indonesia,'€ he told journalists after the trial.

In previous hearings, Bonner and Prosser said the documentary aimed to look into cooperation between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore in securing the Malacca Strait.

They also interviewed some Malaysian officials.

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.

The journalists'€™ attorney, Aristo Pangaribuan, has slammed the prosecutors and is considering filing an appeal.

'€œThe prosecutors seemed very eager to throw them in jail,'€ he said.

Natalie Prosser, Prosser'€™s older sister, who came from London to attend the trial, cried as her sister'€™s guilty verdict was read out.

Natalie said that Prosser was a journalist with eight years of experience and had made documentaries for the National Geographic channel and the BBC.

'€œShe [Becky] is a good writer. She is an independent and strong woman,'€ she said.

Their parents fell ill upon hearing that Prosser had been arrested in Batam.

A Navy patrol arrested the two journalists on May 28 along with nine Indonesian nationals on Belakang Padang Island, Batam, as they were about to film a reenactment of a piracy incident.

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.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Asia Pacific has confirmed that the two journalists are members of the UK-based National Union of Journalists, deploring the arrest and trial.

The Indonesian Alliance of Independent Journalists also asked the government to release the journalists, as they were conducting journalistic duties.

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