Indonesia deports detained US journalist

Philip Jacobson flies home after being detained for more than six weeks for allegedly violating his business visa
Indonesia deports detained US journalist

Philip Jacobson (center) and his lawyers Aryo Nugroho Waluyo (left) and Parlin Bayu Hutabarat (right) pose for a photo at Palangkaraya airport just before his deportation from Indonesia. (Photo courtesy of Aryo Nugroho Waluyo)

Indonesia has deported an American environmental journalist whose arrest more than six weeks ago in Central Kalimantan province sparked an outcry among rights activists and calls for his immediate release.

Philip Jacobson, 31, an award-winning American journalist for the non-profit environmental news site Mongabay, was deported on Jan. 31 after being detained on an alleged visa violation and arrived back in New York on Feb. 1. 

“We are relieved that Phil has finally been granted his freedom,” Mongabay founder and CEO Rhett A. Butler said in a statement.

“His prolonged detention over this matter was profoundly concerning, but we are very pleased that authorities dismissed the charges and released him.”

Jacobson was arrested on Dec. 17 after attending a meeting between the provincial parliament and the local chapter of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), the country’s largest indigenous rights advocacy group.

He had traveled to Central Kalimantan provincial capital Palangkaraya after entering the country on a business visa for a series of meetings. A few hours before he was scheduled to fly out of the city, immigration officials confiscated his passport. 

The next day, immigration officials questioned him and ordered him to remain in the city pending an investigation.

They later briefly jailed him for three days, saying he had been conducting journalistic activities not permitted under a business visa — an offense carrying a prison term of up to five years and/or a fine of 500 million rupiah (about US$36,000).

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD later said he would look at deporting the journalist following an outcry over his detention.

“It’s good to be out of prison and I’m relieved the prospect of a five-year jail sentence is no longer something I have to contemplate,” Jacobson said in a statement following his deportation.

“I am very grateful to all those who worked hard to resolve this situation, including Coordinating Minister Mahfud MD and other Indonesian politicians and individuals who went out of their way to highlight the importance of work done by the press.

“I appreciate that a lot of people have expended time and energy on my behalf. Please accept my sincere thanks for your efforts and apologies for the trouble. I owe you all.”

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