Karina M. Tehusijarana, Jakarta – An American environmental editor named Philip Jacobson has been detained in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan for allegedly violating visa restrictions, environmental science and conservation news portal Mongabay said in a statement on Tuesday.
According to the statement, Jacobson, a Mongabay employee, had entered Indonesia on a business visa in December and traveled to Palangkaraya to attend a series of meetings.
On Dec. 16, he attended a hearing between the Central Kalimantan Regional Legislative Council (DPRD) and the local chapter of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN).
"[On Dec. 17,] Jacobson was scheduled on a flight out of Palangkaraya, but before he could leave for the airport, immigration officers went to his guesthouse and confiscated his passport," the statement said, adding that the immigration officers then asked Jacobson to remain in the city while they continued their investigation.
"On Jan. 21, more than a month later, Jacobson was formally arrested and taken into custody."
Palangkaraya Legal Aid Foundation head Aryo Nugroho, who is representing Jacobson, confirmed that the journalist was currently being held in the Palangkaraya Class II detention center.
"According to the letter from immigration officials, [Jacobson] was arrested under Article 122 of the 2011 Immigration Law regarding misuse of a residency permit," Aryo told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday. "The article carries a maximum sentence of five years' imprisonment and a maximum fine of Rp 500 million."
Immigration spokesperson Arvin Gumilang told the Post that he had not yet received information about the matter.
Jacob's prosecution has further fueled concerns of declining freedom in the country.
Speaking to Mongabay, Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch said: "Journalists and people employed by journalism organizations should be free to work in Indonesia without fear of arbitrary detention." He added that the journalist's treatment "is a worrying sign that the government is cracking down on the kind of work that is essential to the health of Indonesian democracy."
Mongabay founder and CEO Rhett A. Butler said the publication would support Jacobson in the matter
"We are supporting Philip in this ongoing case and making every effort to comply with Indonesia's immigration authorities," he said in a statement. "I am surprised that immigration officials have taken such punitive action against Philip for what is an administrative matter."