Deforestation in Riau, Sumatra, to make way for an oil palm plantation, HaydenOil Palm Concession under CC BY 2.0 license

“Journalism is clearly not a crime. This case is an administrative matter, a visa problem, not a criminal one,” Harsono said. [Andreas Harsono, Indonesian research at Human Rights Watch] HERE.

The detention of a U.S. journalist in Indonesia may have been linked to his news outlet’s reporting critical of the government. Environmental reporter Philip Jacobson was detained and provisionally released this week, purportedly due to a visa issue. PEN America advises Indonesian officials to resolve the case promptly and drop any criminal charges.

“While we are relieved that Philip has been temporarily released, we remain concerned that he is being targeted for his work in an attempt to send a warning signal to those journalists and news outlets who undertake investigative reporting on sensitive topics in Indonesia,” said Karin Karlekar, director of Free Expression at Risk Programs at PEN America. “Even if there is evidence of a visa-related violation, it should be handled as an administrative rather than a criminal matter and be resolved as quickly as possible, and we call on the authorities to allow both Indonesian and foreign journalists to work freely and without fear of retaliation.”

Jacobson, a U.S. citizen who works as an editor and strategist at Mongabay, a multilingual environmental news website, was in Indonesia on a business visa. On December 17, the day Jacobson was scheduled to leave the city Palangkaraya, immigration officers came to the guesthouse where he was staying and instructed him to remain in the city while they conducted an investigation into an alleged violation of his visa. They also confiscated Jacobson’s passport.

On January 21, authorities took him into custody and held him in a detention center for three days. On Friday, he was released into “city detention.” Law enforcement officials said he violated the terms of his visa and could face a prison sentence of up to five years. The day before he was approached by officials, he had attended a hearing between local lawmakers and an indigenous rights group but was not reporting on the event. His employer Mongabay has recently published articles that criticize Indonesia’s handling of conflict with indigenous communities over land rights, deforestation of Indonesian rainforests, and corruption.

This post is courtesy of PEN America, Reuters, and Wikipedia


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

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