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U.S. Journalist in Danger

Michael Albert | 23.06.2003 02:32 | Repression | World

Reporters and Human Rights Defenders Targeted for Exposing Indonesian
Military Atrocities in Aceh

June 19, 2003 < The U.S.-based Indonesia Human Rights Network (IHRN) today
called upon the Indonesian government to respect freedom of the press,
ensure the safety of journalists and human rights workers working in Aceh,
and to end harassment and intimidation of activists and reporters focusing
on the war-torn region.

The life of American William 3Billy2 Nessen, the only journalist to spend
time with the rebel Free Aceh Movement (GAM) since Indonesia renewed the
war on Aceh in mid-May, is in danger. The Indonesian military (TNI) has
demanded that Nessen turn himself in. Nessen is refusing to give himself up
to the TNI and has requested that he be allowed to leave Indonesia without
being stopped or interrogated. He also asks that the U.S. Embassy or an
independent third party meet and escort him out of the country. Because
these conditions have not been guaranteed, Nessen missed the TNI1s June 14
deadline to surrender.

"I am not going to turn myself in," Nessen told the Sydney Morning Herald.
"My fear is of being shot, tortured, beaten and arrested and held
indefinitely in a black hole." The military operation commander for Aceh,
Brigadier-General Bambang Darmono, has said that Nessen will be arrested.

Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, sent a letter on June 15 to Indonesian President Megawati
Sukarnoputri requesting that Nessen1s safety and safe passage out of
Indonesia be ensured.

On June 10, the New York based Committee to Protect Journalists also sent a
letter to Megawati urging immediate action to ensure Nessen1s safety. The
Paris-based Reporters Without Borders sent a similar letter to Indonesian
military officials.

Aceh provincial governor, Abullah Puteh, recently commented, 3Foreign
journalists are here to stir up problems in Aceh2 and cited Nessen as an

The press has repeatedly come under fire during the Indonesian military1s
renewed war on Aceh. Snipers have ambushed several press vehicles. Police
and army officials have interrogated journalists reporting on TNI
atrocities against civilians; some journalists have received death threats.
Indonesia is employing an 3embedded reporter2 program < Indonesian
journalists undergo 3boot camp2 style training and wear military uniforms.
Reporters have been warned not to report on military abuses they have
witnessed. Mohamad Jamal, a cameraman for the Indonesian government-run
television station TVRI, was kidnapped by unknown men on May 20, the day
after current military operations began in Aceh. Jamal1s body was found on
June 17 in a river near Banda Aceh, bound and gagged with duct tape with a
noose around his neck.

A reporter for Indonesian television station SCTV, Dhandy Dwi Laksono, was
fired after interviewing an Acehnese man was about being tortured by the
TNI. According to Laksono, the station rec

Michael Albert


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  1. ‘Nessen Could Be Punished By Death' — URGENT: Our Journalist Under Attack In Indonesia, Needs Our Help