Concern on new Indonesian restrictions on journalists and aid workers in Aceh

14 January 2005
Source: Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)

SEAPA expresses concern over new Indonesian restrictions on journalists, aid workers in Aceh The Southeast Asian Press Alliance, a leading advocate for press freedom and greater access to information in Southeast Asia, is dismayed and perplexed by Jakarta’s stated intent to restrict the movement of aid workers and journalists in Aceh.

Indonesian leaders said on January 13 that they feel compelled to limit the access of foreign aid agencies, relief workers, and journalists in Aceh, ostensibly because, in the face of the country’s a continuing insurgency in the province, the country’s overwhelmed military could not guarantee the foreigners’ safety.

Thus, news reports say the government has ordered aid workers and journalists to declare travel plans or face expulsion from Aceh. Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla said even foreign troops should be out of the country by March 31.

While aid agencies have expressed concern over what impact the new policies would have on the efficiency and efficacy of international relief efforts, SEAPA added that the restrictions in movement would further add to those concerns, as information about the calamity and assistance programs become harder to come by.

SEAPA noted that among the more than 100,000 who perished in Aceh due to the tsunami were a number of local journalists. The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) in Indonesia confirmed the deaths of three of its members. At least 18 more Aceh-based reporters remain unaccounted for.

SEAPA said the presence of journalists and ensuring access to information in Aceh help not only in letting the community and the world make sense of the December 26 tragedy; it also ensures transparency and improves efficiency as assistance and billions of dollars in aid pour into Indonesia.

“The people of the world not only have concern and sympathy for the Acehnese. They also have a right to know how far and how well their charity and assistance are reaching the intended communities,” SEAPA Executive Director Roby Alampay said. “In this light, ensuring transparency and continued access to information is as vital to this historic effort as any assistance brought by international relief workers and agencies.