French journalist banned from Indonesia for documentary on human rights abuses
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French journalist banned from Indonesia for documentary on human rights abuses

THE Indonesian government has effectively banned French journalist Cyril Payen from the country after the broadcast of his documentary on West Papua.

The documentary, called “The Forgotten War in Papua”, looks into the human rights abuses allegedly carried out by the government over the past 25 years in the country’s conflict-ridden eastern Papuan provinces.

Payen, who is based in Bangkok, had filmed the documentary in July after Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced last May that foreign journalists would be allowed access to the region.

However, after the documentary’s broadcast on October 18, the France 24 reporter was told by Indonesian officials in Bangkok that he was considered persona non grata and his recent media visa request to work on another documentary in the country was rejected without explanation.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued a statement yesterday condemning the decision.

“Indonesia’s move to deny Cyril Payen a journalistic visa smacks of retaliation for his critical reporting,” said Shawn W. Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. He added:

“President Widodo should make good on his previous pledge to improve access to Indonesia for foreign journalists by reversing this arbitrary and ill-conceived decision.”

Some have also taken to social media to criticize the move:

Foreign journalists are no strangers to the Indonesian authorities’ strict media restrictions – one recent example being British filmmakers Rebecca Prosser and Neil Bonner, who had been arrested and held in custody last year for violating the terms of their tourist visas while filming a documentary on piracy.

According to the Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, Indonesia scored worse in 2015 (40.8) compared to 2014 (38.2), with higher scores signifying less press freedom granted to the media.

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