Along with suspension, charge against foreign journalist must be withdrawn

[Photo: Mongabay.com]

Responding to the suspension of detention of foreign journalist Philip Jacobson, who is still facing a possible 5 year jail term for allegedly violating the terms of his visa, Amnesty International Indonesia’s Executive Director Usman Hamid says:

“We welcome the decision of Indonesian Authorities to suspend his detention. However, as a follow up, the charge against him must be dropped.”

“The charge against Philip comes at a time of when Indonesia is seeing a rise in violent attacks and criminalization of environmentalists and journalists in Indonesia. We are deeply concerned that the real reason behind the criminal charges for Jacobson is not merely visa violation but his work for Mongabay.”

“He has worked to uncover environmental degradation, including Indonesia’s recent spate of devastating and polluting forest fires.

“Indonesia’s growing repression and persecution of environmental activists and journalists will have a chilling effect on anyone seeking to do journalistic or research work in Indonesia.”

“Authorities must ensure the safety of environmental activists and journalists and must not use criminal or other legal measures as a means to silence them.”

Background

According to Mongabay’s official release, Philip Jacobson was initially detained and then released on 17 December 2019 for violating the terms of his business visa after attending a hearing between the Central Kalimantan parliament and the local chapter of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), Indonesia’s largest indigenous rights advocacy group.

The Indonesian Journalists Safety Committee said his attendance in the meeting was in accordance with regulations and laws in Indonesia.

On 21 January 2020, he was arrested again and taken into custody. He was informed that he faces charges of violating the article 122 of 2011 immigration law and a prison sentence of up to five years. His detention has just been suspended but the legal case and the charge against him still continue.

Last year environmental activist Golfrid Siregar, who was a strong critic of the dam project in Batang Toru, North Sumatera, died in a tragic road accident-setting. Police investigation revealed his death linked to the act of theft. His backpack in which his personal laptop and wallet stored are gone. His organization, WALHI, said that his death was connected to his human rights and environmental work.

Also last year, the house of Murdhani, an environmental activist in Lombok, was burnt. Police found indications that the fire had been deliberately lit.

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