Indonesia restricts media access in Aceh

Indonesia has restricted media coverage of a government offensive in Aceh, confining foreign journalists to key cities and towns in the province unless they are accompanied by soldiers or police.

    Nessen (L): Victim of
    Aceh's media restriction

    Aceh military spokesman

    Colonel Ditya Sudarsono on Friday said the ruling also

    applied to Indonesian journalists working for foreign media.


    He said the aim was to protect journalists during the offensive against the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).  "Actually this is not a limitation. We want to ensure their safety," Sudarsono said.


    Any journalist not based in Aceh who ignored the regulations would have to leave the province within 24 hours, he said. Those who lived in Aceh would have to cease reporting.


    In another order, Indonesian government tightened restrictions on overseas non-government organisations (NGOs). Both foreign and local NGOs have been forbidden from talking to the press without permission from the martial law administrator.


    Meanwhile, a Japanese photojournalist has been arrested in Aceh apparently for 

    working without a permit, police and the military said. Sudarsono identified the reporter just as Takashi but said the circumstances of his arrest were not yet clear.


    Nessen in custody


    Another reporter William Nessen is already in custody. Police said they had refused a request to free the US reporter, detained for questioning about possible immigration offences.


    Nessen spent a few weeks with Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels in Aceh before handing himself over to the military on Tuesday. Nessen was in turn turned over to police.


    Indonesia is in the middle of its biggest offensive ever to crush GAM after peace talks collapsed in May. About 300 people have been killed and thousands have fled their homes.


    Rights groups have expressed concern at efforts to restrict Aceh to foreigners, saying abuses could take place.



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