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Four Dutch journalists arrested in eastern province of Papua, detained for 12 hours

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders condemns the arrest of four Dutch journalists on 24 March 2009 in Jayapura, the capital of the eastern province of Papua, after covering a demonstration organised to greet the return of Nicholas Jouwe, one of the founders of the Papuan independence movement, the OPM, after 40 years in exile in the Netherlands. They were released the next day after being held for 12 hours.

Three of the journalists, Gabriela Babette, Peter Mariaw Smith and Ronald Wigman are from the channel NRC TV. The fourth, Elske Schouten, is the Jakarta-based correspondent of the Dutch newspaper "NRC Handelsblad".

"It is outrageous that the government prevents foreign journalists from working freely in Papua," Reporters Without Borders said. "Closing off a province in this manner violates Indonesia's international undertakings and the country's constitution, which guarantees press freedom. We demand the lifting of all restrictions on journalists who want to visit Papua."

The Papua police said the four journalists violated their visa conditions and "immigration regulations." They had not been given permission to film, they claimed.

The head of immigration in Jayapura, Raden Hendiartono, said on 29 March that Babette and Smith were sent back to Jakarta. "We gave them three days in Jakarta to arrange flights back to the Netherlands," he said. He added that Wingam had a permit to remain in Bali and Schouten was allowed to return to Jakarta of her own accord.

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