APSN Banner

Vanuatu: Indonesian official attempts to bribe RNZ journalist

International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Statement - September 12, 2023

A Radio New Zealand (RNZ) journalist has alleged that an Indonesian official attempted to both bribe and intimidate him following an interview at a recent meeting of a Melanesian intergovernmental organisation in Port Vila, Vanuatu. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliates, the Media Association Vanuatu (MAV) and the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Indonesia, condemn the attempted bribery and harassment of the journalist and urge the relevant authorities to thoroughly investigate the incident.

Melanesian Spearhead Group summit participants and journalists attend the summit's closing ceremony in Port Vila on August 26. Credit: Facebook

On August 23, RNZ journalist Kelvin Anthony reported that a representative of the Indonesian government, Ardi Nuswantoro, attempted to bribe him outside Port Vila's Holiday Inn Resort after Anthony conducted an exclusive interview with Indonesia's Australian ambassador, Dr Siswo Pramono.

According to Anthony, Nuswantoro had previously expressed the Indonesian government's displeasure at RNZ's coverage of ongoing independence efforts in West Papua. The journalist had advised him of the outlet's mandate to produce "balanced and fair" coverage and was invited to the hotel for the interview, where he questioned Dr Pramono on a broad range of pertinent topics including West Papua.

Following the interview, Anthony was escorted from the hotel by at least three Indonesian officials. After repeatedly inquiring as to how the journalist was going to return to his accommodation, Nuswantoro then offered him a "gift" of an unknown amount of money, which Anthony refused.

Anthony reported that he felt harassed and intimidated in the days following, with Nuswantoro continuing to message, call, and follow him at the conference's closing reception. RNZ chose not to air the interview with Dr Pramno due to the incident.

In response to the claims of bribery and intimidation sent to the Indonesian government by RNZ, Jakarta's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Asia Pacific and African Affairs director-general Abdul Kadir Jailani said, "bribery has never been our policy nor approach to journalists... we will surely look into it." In a September 6 interview, New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins reiterated his government's commitment to press freedom, stating the importance of free and independent media.

Journalists and civil society in West Papua have faced increasing threats, restrictions and violence in recent years. Indonesian media has disproportionately reflected state narratives, with state intervention resulting in the censorship of independent outlets and effective barring of local or international journalists from Indonesian-administered Papua. In February, renowned journalist Victor Mambor was subject to a bombing attack outside his Jayapura home.

MAV said: "The Media Association of Vanuatu (MAV) is concerned about an alleged bribery attempt by foreign officials at a Melanesian Spearhead Group regional meeting. MAV President Lillyrose Welwel denounces such actions and urges MAV members to adhere to the Code of Ethics, as journalism is a public service. She encourages international journalists to contact the association when in the country, as any actions that do not reflect MAV's values are not acceptable."

AJI said:"AJI Indonesia urges the Indonesian government to investigate the incident with transparency. This action must be followed by providing guarantees to any journalist to work safely in Papua and outside. The Indonesian government must also guarantee the protection of human rights in Papua, including for civilians, human rights defenders, and journalists."

The IFJ said: "Government intervention in independent and critical reporting is highly concerning, and this incident is one in an alarming trend of intimidation against reporting on West Papua. The IFJ urges the Indonesian government to thoroughly investigate this incident of alleged bribery and harassment and act to ensure its commitment to press freedom is upheld."

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

Source: https://www.ifj.org/media-centre/news/detail/category/press-releases/article/vanuatu-indonesian-official-attempts-to-bribe-rnz-journalis