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Ban on BBC reporter only temporary, Indonesia says

Catholic priest backs military in tweet row over aid supplies to combat deadly Papua measles, malnutrition crisis

Ban on BBC reporter only temporary, Indonesia says

A member of the Indonesian military attends to a child at a hospital in Agats, the capital of Asmat district in Indonesia's  Papua province, in this Jan. 26 photo. At least 800 children have been sickened in the area with as many as 100 others, mostly toddlers, feared to have died in what a military official called an "extraordinary" measles outbreak. (Photo by Bay Ismoyo/AFP)

Katharina R. Lestari, Jakarta
Indonesia

February 7, 2018

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A ban on an Australian journalist thrown out of Indonesia's Papua province after posting tweets that offended the military is only temporary, according to officials.

BBC Indonesia bureau chief Rebecca Henschke was escorted out of the province on Feb. 3 after reportedly criticizing military aid efforts to combat a deadly measles outbreak and malnutrition crisis that has killed dozens of children near the town of Agats.

One tweet showing a photo of supplies sitting on a dock was accompanied by the message: "This is the aid coming in for severely malnourished children in Papua — instant noodles, super sweet soft drinks and biscuits."

Another said, "children in hospital eating chocolate biscuits and that's it".

The tweets angered soldiers, who called them misleading since the food and drinks were not humanitarian aid but products sold by local merchants. 

As a result she was ordered to leave the province.

Authorities later said the ban was temporary.

"Due to the incident, she is not allowed to conduct journalistic activities in the province for a certain period of time," Agung Sampurno, an immigration spokesman told ucanews.com on Feb. 5.

He said that she has no problem with her journalist visa and permit of stay in Indonesia. "The problem is what she did as a journalist. If she wanted to cover something, she should have done it correctly," he said.

Father Hendrikus Hada, head of the Agats-Asmat Diocese aid distribution team, confirmed the supplies Henschke photographed were not humanitarian aid. 

"There are no soft drinks in the humanitarian aid being distributed," he said, adding that the diocese had helped distribute 17.5 tons of aid consisting of rice, milk and other necessities. 

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