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Jakarta Post

Detained in Indonesia, Mongabay editor gets award for environmental journalism

  • Ardila Syakriah
    Ardila Syakriah

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, January 23, 2020   /   09:19 pm
Detained in Indonesia, Mongabay editor gets award for environmental journalism Barbara Trionfi, executive director of the International Press Institute, gives an award certificate to Tom Johnson of the UK for winning second prize in the category Excellence in Environmental Journalism of Fetisov Journalism Award in Lucerne, Switzerland, on Wednesday. US journalist Philip Jacobson was supposed to receive the award with Johnson but is detained in Indonesia. (Courtesy of Fetisov Journalism Award/-)

American journalist Philip Jacobson, who works for environmental news website Mongabay, received an award for “excellence in environmental journalism” from Fetisov Journalism Award for a collaborative investigative work on environmental issues in Indonesia. He was supposed to receive the award with his colleague at a gala dinner in Lucerne, Switzerland, on Wednesday, but instead he spent the time at an immigration detention center in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, for an alleged visa violation. 

Jacobson, an editor at Mongabay, was among several journalists from different countries who had worked on the project that won the second prize.

Read also: Indonesian organizations condemn arrest of Mongabay environmental journalist

"First place was awarded to Isaac Anyaogu [from] Nigeria and Petra Sorge [from Germany] for the series Dying in Instalments. Second place was awarded to Philip Jacobson [US] and Tom Johnson [UK] for the article The Secret Deal to Destroy Paradise. The third prize was awarded to Amos Abba [Nigeria] for How Nestle Nigeria Contaminates Water Supply of its Host Community in Abuja," Fetisov Journalism Award said in a statement on its website on Thursday.

Three winners of each category in the award share a prize of 130,000 Swiss francs (US$134,000).

Jacobson’s article is the third in an in-depth series on deforestation and land rights called Indonesia for Sale. The series is the product of 22 months of investigative reporting across the Southeast Asian country, interviewing fixers, middlemen, lawyers and companies involved in land deals, and those most affected by them, according to Mongabay.

Jacobson, however, could not make it to the ceremony as he has been arrested under Article 122 of the 2011 Immigration Law. If convicted of the charges, he faces a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to Rp 500 million (US$36,556).

Read also: International journalists, agencies decry Indonesia's arrest of environmental journalist

Mongabay founder and CEO Rhett A. Butler said the recognition was a great honor, as a lot of work had gone into producing the series. He expressed regret that Jacobson could not join the awarding ceremony.

"Phil was supposed to accept the award on behalf of the group of journalists who worked on the Indonesia for Sale project. Instead he is sitting in prison in Palangkaraya. I want to emphasize that Phil was in Palangkaraya to meet with officials and AMAN, specifically to learn about issues being discussed between the two parties," Butler told The Jakarta Post on Thursday, referring to the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN).

"This trip was not related to any work Phil supported in the Indonesia for Sale series," he added.

Local and international journalists and agencies have condemned Jacobson's arrest, calling it a violation of the freedom of the press and calling on the Indonesian government to refrain from over-the-top measures.

One of the judges for the awards, Aidan White, told the Post that the award for Jacobson and his colleagues was "in recognition of terrific investigative journalism on environmental issues".

"The fact that he was unable to attend the ceremony to receive his prize because of harassment by the authorities is a shocking reminder of the risks journalists take to tell important stories and to expose wrongdoing," White, the President of the Ethical Journalism Network, added. (ars/evi)