Indonesia detains British scribes over visa violation

Jakarta, Nov 3 (IANS) An Indonesian court on Tuesday sentenced two British journalists to short jail terms after finding them guilty of violating immigration laws by trying to make a documentary in the country without the correct visas.

A prosecutor had asked the court to jail Neil Bonner, 32, and Rebecca Prosser, 31, for five months and a fine of 50 million rupiah ($3,690), The Guardian reported.

But the judge on the western island of Batam handed down a lesser sentence of two-and-a-half months, saying the defendants had admitted their guilt and apologised.

“The defendants have been proven legally and convincingly guilty as foreigners who have violated staying permits in Indonesia,” the presiding judge, Wahyu Prasetyo Wibowo, said.

Bonner and Prosser were arrested by the Indonesian navy on May 28 in Batam, where they were shooting a documentary about piracy in the Malacca Straits for the London-based production company, Wall to Wall, with funding from the National Geographic Channel.

Nine local people involved in the documentary were also arrested but released on bail two days later.

Prosser and Bonner were initially held under house arrest and moved to jail in September.

Foreign journalists are required to obtain a special visa to report in Indonesia. Recent violations have resulted in journalists being deported immediately or serving short prison terms.

The British Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire said last week that British consular officials had visited the pair twice since their arrest, and he had raised their case with his Indonesian counterpart.

Indonesia slipped six places in RWB’s press freedom rankings this year to 138th in the world.

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