SEJ Condemns Indonesia Arrest of Mongabay Journalist

The Society of Environmental Journalists condemned Indonesia’s arrest and imprisonment of Philip Jacobson, an editor for the environmental news site Mongabay. In a Jan. 22 letter to the ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia and to officials with the U.S. Department of State, SEJ President Meera Subramanian called for Jacobson’s prompt release, for charges against him to be dropped and for his passport to be returned. 

Jacobson, whose work was recognized in SEJ’s 2019 environmental journalism awards, was arrested Jan. 21 in Palangkaraya on Borneo and accused of a visa violation. He had been under city arrest since Dec. 17, when authorities seized his passport while they investigated the alleged violation. According to a release on the Mongabay website, authorities first contacted him a day after Jacobson had attended a dialogue at the parliament building between the Central Kalimantan parliament and the local chapter of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), which advocates for indigenous rights.

“Employees of the news media should be free to work in Indonesia without fear of arbitrary detention,” Subramanian said. “Actions like those taken against Mr. Jacobson harm the health of Indonesian democracy and the country’s global reputation.”

SEJ’s letter noted that the Indonesian Alliance of Independent Journalists had logged 53 incidents of violence against journalists in the country last year, including five criminal cases.

Subramanian decried as “exceedingly harsh” the Indonesian immigration authorities’ action against Jacobson. A visa violation, she wrote, “should be handled administratively, not criminally.”

Reporters without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists have also issued statements calling for Jacobson’s release.

News on the arrest was compiled in SEJ's EJToday Headlines.


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