Letters   |   Indonesia

American journalist barred from covering East Timor

August 25, 1999

His Excellency Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie
President, Republic of Indonesia
Office of the President
Bina Graha, Jalan Veteran No. 17
Jakarta Pusat, Indonesia

Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply troubled by the recent deportation of American journalist Amy Goodman, who was stopped at Bali's Ngurah Rai international airport while en route to East Timor to cover the territory's August 30 vote on independence. Goodman's expulsion directly contradicts your administration's pledges to lift restrictions on foreign journalists, and to ensure that international observers, including media representatives, are allowed free access to East Timor during the historic referendum.

Goodman--a radio reporter and host of the Pacifica Radio news program "Democracy Now!"--was barred from entering Indonesia on August 23. Customs officials showed Goodman her name on a computer screen and in a book containing the names of "hundreds if not thousands" of others on the government's "blacklist," according to a statement released by WBAI in New York, where "Democracy Now!" is produced. Goodman was told that she had been blacklisted by the Ministry of Defense, and was put on board a Taipei-bound plane.

Goodman has been reporting on East Timor for nearly a decade. In November 1991 she was beaten by Indonesian soldiers who objected to her covering the army's massacre of scores of East Timorese demonstrators in the Santa Cruz cemetery. She was subsequently placed on the government's blacklist, though she was permitted to enter Indonesia in 1994 during United States President Bill Clinton's meeting with Indonesia's then-President Suharto. During that visit, on November 12, Goodman and a colleague--journalist Alan Nairn, who was on an assignment for the American magazine Vanity Fair--were detained while trying to enter East Timor. Goodman and Nairn were held overnight in West Timor before being flown back to Jakarta.

As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of press freedom around the world, CPJ is dismayed that journalists continue to be barred from Indonesia on the basis of their work. CPJ has praised your administration for substantially improving conditions for press freedom in Indonesia since the resignation of President Suharto last May, but Goodman's expulsion proves that the Indonesian government will still take crude measures to shut out a critical voice.

During a May 1999 meeting with delegates from CPJ and the Brussels-based International Press Institute, Your Excellency promised to "never tolerate that the Indonesian government will interfere with the freedom of the press," and you expressed the belief that freedom of the press is "very important". Your Excellency also pledged to ease restrictions on foreign journalists, and to lift the requirement that they obtain special journalists' visas before entering the country.

CPJ respectfully urges Your Excellency to make good on these commitments, and to ensure that Indonesian authorities abandon the policy of blacklisting journalists. We further ask that you immediately remove Amy Goodman's name from the blacklist so that she may return to report on political developments in East Timor.

We thank you for your attention to this urgent matter, and await your response.

Sincerely,

Ann K. Cooper
Executive Director





Join CPJ in Protesting Attacks on the Press in Indonesia

Send a letter to:

His Excellency Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie
President, Republic of Indonesia
Office of the President
Bina Graha, Jalan Veteran No. 17
Jakarta Pusat, Indonesia

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