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French journalists arrested in Indonesia's Papua province

Police said duo failed to obtain permit to report on separatists

Ryan Dagur in Jakarta and AFP in Jayapura
Indonesia

August 8, 2014

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Two French journalists were arrested on Wednesday by Indonesian police for allegedly reporting on the separatist movement in restive Papua province. 

Thomas Charles Dandois, 40, and Valentine Bourrat, 29, were arrested at a hotel in Wamena district with three suspected members of the Free Papua Movement. The duo were working for the Franco-German television channel Arte, a spokesman for the French embassy in Jakarta said.

Papua police spokesman Sulistyo Pudjo Hartono told ucanews.com on Friday that the journalists were arrested for working without official permits.

"According to their visas, they are tourists. But they then carried out reporting duties. Every foreign journalist entering Papua must obtain a permit," he said.

Indonesia rarely allows foreign journalists to carry out reporting duties in Papua. The movement of journalists and nongovernmental organization workers are heavily restricted.

Hartono said police were investigating whether the Papuans who accompanied the French journalists were members of armed separatist groups. The Free Papua Movement has waged a low level insurgency for several decades, seeking independence from Indonesian rule in the resource-rich region.

Brigadier General Paulus Waterpauw, Papua Police deputy chief, told tabloidjubi.com that police were investigating whether the journalists had provided "logistics aid" to armed civil groups.

Police said the alleged separatists at the hotel were from the highlands of Lanny Jaya district, where five Free Papua Movement members were killed in a shootout with the military last week.

Eko Maryadi, head of the Alliance of Independent Journalists, said foreign journalists have had difficulty obtaining permission to work in Papua, causing "several foreign journalists to secretly enter Papua."

A French embassy spokesman said: "We are in constant contact with them. We are in touch with the Indonesian ministry of foreign affairs and the police, both in Jakarta and in Papua, to resolve this issue."

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