Problems for press in Aceh

December 2nd, 2003 | by Andrew Ó Baoill |

The Indonesian government is preventing journalists from reporting on its military incursion into Aceh, where grave human rights violations are taking place, says a report released by Human Rights Watch.

Aceh Under Martial Law: Muzzling the Messengers – Attacks and Restrictions on the Media” documents press-freedom violations that have occurred since the Indonesian government declared martial law in the northwestern province on 19 May 2003. Human Rights Watch says security forces have verbally and physically intimidated journalists in Aceh, and arbitrarily detained reporters in the field. Severe restrictions have also been placed on foreign correspondents, while diplomats, human rights organisations and United Nations officials have been denied entry into Aceh.

“The Indonesian government has claimed that it is protecting journalists by barring them from Aceh, but its actions show that it is more concerned about hiding what the troops are doing,” Human Rights Watch says.

The report also documents cases of journalists being intimidated by separatist Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM) rebels. On 29 June 2003, rebels abducted two Indonesian reporters and have refused to release them. Numerous journalists have also been shot at by unidentified gunmen, Human Rights Watch says.

On 6 November, the Indonesian government extended martial law in Aceh for another six months.

(from IFEX)

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