Indonesian authorities threaten to prosecute blacklisted U.S. journalist Allan Nairn

September 17, 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 concerned over reports that Indonesian authorities intend to prosecute American journalist Allan Nairn for entering the country in violation of immigration laws. Nairn's name appears on a "blacklist" compiled by the Indonesian armed forces, barring the journalist from reporting in Indonesia.

NairnÑa freelance journalist who filed regular reports from East Timor for the American news organizations The Nation, a weekly political magazine, and Pacifica Radio's current affairs program "Democracy Now!"---was detained in Dili, East Timor, by Indonesian military officers at around 5:30 a.m. local time on September 14. At the time of his detention, Nairn was one of a handful of journalists still reporting in Dili after pro-Jakarta militias backed by the Indonesian military unleashed a violent campaign to drive pro-independence Timorese from their homes. The militias also drove most media and other international observers out of East Timor. CPJ believes that they targeted journalists as part of a strategy to eliminate witnesses to the ensuing atrocities.

Nairn says he has been interrogated by police and by military officers, including Maj. Gen. Kiki Syahnakri, head of the Indonesian military operation in East Timor. Indonesian authorities have expelled Nairn from the country twice since placing him on the blacklist for his coverage of the November 1991 Santa Cruz massacre, in which Indonesian soldiers killed scores of East Timorese demonstrators at the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili.

On September 15, Nairn was taken to Kupang, West Timor, on a military jet. Nairn has since been in the custody of the immigration authorities in Kupang. Nairn, who has been able to use his cellular phone to communicate with colleagues abroad as well as United States government officials in Jakarta, says that he has not been physically harmed, and that he is receiving adequate food and shelter.

CPJ has learned that top Indonesian officialsÑincluding Information Minister Yunus Yosfiah, Justice Minister Muladi, and Minister of Transmigration A.M. Hendro Priyono---have assured Stapleton Roy, the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, that they will expedite Nairn's deportation. Despite these assurances, a senior immigration official told Nairn today that Benny Mateus, the chief justice of NTT Province, intends to prosecute him on charges of "engaging in unauthorized activities and overstaying his two-month visa," according to a statement released by Amy Goodman, host of "Democracy Now!".

As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues around the world, CPJ is dismayed by the prolonged detention and harassment of Allan Nairn. We are further troubled by the fact that Indonesia continues to maintain blacklists designed to prevent certain reporters from entering the country, and is prepared to prosecute journalists for violating visa restrictions designed by the former Suharto government to control the flow of information.

These policies are particularly disappointing in light of your administration's recent moves to lift restrictions on the press. On May 14, in response to questions posed by a joint delegation from CPJ and the Brussels-based International Press Institute, Your Excellency said you had "no objection" to amending restrictive regulations on foreign journalists to allow them to enter Indonesia without obtaining special visas. Both Information Minister Yunus and Foreign Minister Ali Alatas also indicated a willingness to change the current practices.

It was a common practice under the Suharto regime to deport foreign journalists who displeased the authorities, and to use visa requirements to prevent some reporters from covering events in Indonesia. The compiling of blacklists by the armed forces and the requirement that journalists obtain special visas are restrictive, repressive relics of that regime. As such, they are inconsistent with your administration's avowed commitment to reform.

CPJ respectfully urges Your Excellency to do everything within your power to assure that Nairn is not prosecuted for his work in East Timor, and that he is released immediately from the custody of the immigration authority in Kupang. We also ask that your administration abandon the practice of blacklisting critical journalists, and that you allow all journalists to enter Indonesia without bureaucratic restrictions.

We thank you for your attention to these urgent matters, and await your response regarding the status of Allan Nairn.


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

September 17, 1999 12:00 PM ET |

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