Piracy doc crew found guilty

Pair were hoping to make piracy documentary before Navy swooped.

UK documentary makers found guilty in Indonesian court

Two UK journalists have been found guilty of violating Indonesia’s immigration laws by making a piracy documentary while on a tourist visa.

Neil Bonner and Rebecca Prosser were arrested by the Indonesian navy off the island of Batam on 28 May.

They have been sentenced to two months and 15 days in jail, but because of time already served, they could be free to leave the country within two days.

Afterwards Bonner told reporters: “I don’t think journalism is a crime.”

The journalists were working for London-based production company Wall to Wall and the trip was being funded by National Geographic.

They have also been fined about $2,500 (about £1,600).

Prosecutors have a week to decide whether to appeal against the sentence.

‘No choice’

According to news agency AFP, Prosser told reporters it was a “big relief” to hopefully be going home, but condemned the sentence as a “criminalisation of journalists”.

“I think this makes it a more dangerous landscape for other journalists in Indonesia,” she said.

Bonner thanked their supporters, but added: “This is journalism on trial, and we’ve been found guilty.”

Batam island is just south of Singapore and near the Malacca Strait, an important international shipping lane.

Chief judge of the Batam central court Wahyu Prasetyo said the journalists had admitted violating their visa terms and apologised, but he had no choice but to find them guilty.

Journalists wanting to report from Indonesia need a special press visa, which can take months to process.

Reporters Without Borders said anyone caught working without a press visa was usually deported.

The pair’s lawyer, Aristo Pangaribuan, told the BBC that what they did was a “misdemeanour” rather than a criminal act.

But prosecutor Bani Ginting, in his closing remarks to court, said the two journalists were “legally and convincingly guilty” of misusing their tourist visas for “inappropriate activity”.


At the scene

By Rebecca Henschke, BBC News

Neil Bonner and Rebecca Prosser arrived at the court handcuffed and dressed in prison clothes. They looked thin and anxious.

Before the trial began they were kept in a crowded prison cell with others who are facing charges, such as robbery.

Rebecca’s older sister, Natalie, has travelled from the United Kingdom for the verdict and sat in the front row alongside the two journalists. She has created a support WhatsApp group and said their family at home were waiting anxiously for news.

The small courtroom at the central Batam court case was filled mostly with local journalists, including representatives from the Indonesian Alliance of Independent Journalists, who staged a protest in support of the pair last week.

Bonner and Prosser have spent most of the time since they were detained under house arrest, but were transferred to prison for their trial.

During the trial, Ms Prosser’s sister, Natalie Prosser, told the BBC: “Becky is a very strong woman… but she is in a mainly male prison, there are only a handful of women there”.

She said the situation was “taking its toll” on the documentary maker and that she “has coped very well in difficult circumstances”.

Some local journalists held a protest outside court last week and Zuhri Muhammad, the Batam-based chairman of the Alliance of Independent Journalists, told the BBC that he regarded the trial as a threat to all journalists in Indonesia.

“This trial means that the authorities have criminalised journalists for doing their job”.

Reporters without Borders said nine Indonesians, including the pair’s fixer Ahmadi, are facing a possible two-year jail term or a fine.

Last year two French journalists were “victims of Indonesia’s draconian immigration laws” when they were convicted of “misusing an entry visa”, the group said.

They were held for two and a half months and their sentence covered the time they had already been detained.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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