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Two British journalists convicted in Indonesia over visa violations

British journalists Neil Bonner (R) and Rebecca Prosser are seen after attending their court hearing at Batam District Court, Indonesia Riau Islands 3 November 2015 in this photo taken by Antara Foto
British journalists Neil Bonner (R) and Rebecca Prosser are seen after attending their court hearing at Batam District Court, Indonesia Riau Islands 3 November 2015 in this photo taken by Antara Foto

REUTERS/M N Kanwa/Antara Foto

This statement was originally published on cpj.org on 3 November 2015.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by the conviction of British filmmakers Neil Bonner and Rebecca Prosser who, according to reports, were sentenced to two and a half month in prison in Indonesia today. The conviction represents a failure of the government to reverse its long-standing anti-media policies.

Bonner and Prosser have been held in Batam, south of Singapore, since May on charges of breaking immigration regulations by working while on tourist visas, according to reports. They were arrested after being picked up by the Indonesian navy while making a documentary about piracy in the Strait of Malacca, reports said.

"Indonesia's continued policies of restricting foreign media run against the promises President Joko Widodo made when he took office last year. The government continues to suppress coverage of sensitive stories," said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator. "Neil Bonner and Rebecca Prosser never should have been arrested in the first place."

The filmmakers, who were fined a total of 50 million Indonesia Rupiah, or about U.S. $1,850 each, remained in custody after the trial, but their lawyer Aristo Pangaribuan said they would be released Friday for time already served unless prosecutors appeal the sentence, The Associated Press reported.

Nine Indonesians working with the Britons were also arrested but released on bail two days later, according to media reports. Charges have not been brought against them but if they were convicted they could face up to two years in prison or a fine.

Bonner and Prosser were working for the London-based Wall to Wall video production company that is producing the documentary. The piece was funded by National Geographic. The two were held under house arrest for four months before being transferred to a prison in Batam in September, according to reports. Their trial began last month.

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