November 24, 1998
His Excellency Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie
President, Republic of Indonesia
Office of the President
Bina Graha, Jalan Veteran No. 17
Jakarta Pusat, Indonesia
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply troubled by the recent expulsion of Canadian journalist John Stackhouse and the continuing restrictions on foreign journalists covering Indonesia.
On November 10, Stackhouse, a correspondent with the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper based in New Delhi, was deported from Jakarta's Sukarno Hatta Airport shortly after his arrival. He was told by a customs and immigration official that his name was on a blacklist of journalists compiled by the Indonesian armed forces. The Canadian embassy was subsequently told that Stackhouse had been blacklisted because of articles he had written about East Timor in 1997 and that he would not be permitted to enter Indonesia at least until the end of 1998. At the time of the incident, Stackhouse held a valid journalist's visa issued by the Indonesian embassy in New Delhi.
The expulsion of Stackhouse is inconsistent with the recent strides Indonesia has made toward having an open and free press since the resignation of President Suharto in May. The scrutiny of journalists' work, the compiling of blacklists by the armed forces, and the requirement that journalists obtain special visas are reminiscent of the restrictive and repressive policies carried out by the Suharto government. It was a common practice under the Suharto regime to deport foreign journalists who displeased the regime and to use visa requirements to prevent some reporters from covering events in Indonesia.
The requirement that journalists carry a special visa is inconsistent with democratic practices. Currently, most visitors, be they tourists or businesspeople, are granted visas automatically upon arrival in Indonesia. In other democratic countries in Southeast Asia, such as the Philippines and Thailand, no special visa is required for visiting journalists, and harassment of foreign correspondents is rare.
As an organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues worldwide, CPJ respectfully urges you to lift the expulsion order on John Stackhouse immediately and allow him to report from Indonesia.
We also ask that you review your visa policies for journalists and bring Indonesia in line with the democratic practices of neighboring countries. We believe this action would deepen the commitment of Indonesia to reform its information policies and promote greater transparency.
We appreciate your attention and await your response.
Ann K. Cooper
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