British journalists face five years in Indonesian jail for visa violation

Filmmakers Neil Bonner and Rebecca Prosser were arrested by the Indonesian navy off the western island of Batam in May for working on tourist visas

Filmmakers Neil Bonner and Rebecca Prosser were arrested by the Indonesian navy off the western island of Batam in May for working on tourist visas

According to the guardian report, two British journalists are facing five years in jail in Indonesia for making a documentary about piracy while allegedly on tourist visas. Read more below.

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Neil Bonner, 32, and Rebecca Prosser, 31, have been held for four months after they were arrested off the western island of Batam on 28 May. Their trial started this week.

The journalists’ families, who have until now avoided commenting on the case, told the Guardian they were hoping for a swift release.

“We love Becky very much and are so proud of her. We miss her very much and hope she will be home with us soon,” Bernard and Carmel Prosser said.

Barbara Shaw, Bonner’s mother, said: “Neil is bearing up OK under the circumstances. Neil is heartened by the incredible support he’s received – letters from people all over the world. It just shows you what a good man he is.”

Bonner and Prosser were making a documentary about piracy in south-east Asia for a London-based production company called Wall to Wall which was funded by National Geographic TV. Batam island, just south of Singapore, is near the Malacca Strait, an important international shipping lane.

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They were held on house arrest for most of the time before being transferred to prison this month.

“Neil Bonner and Rebecca Prosser are well-respected documentary filmmakers working for Wall to Wall in the UK. They travelled to Indonesia to film footage for an episode of a National Geographic factual television programme, looking at the good work done by law enforcement agencies in the Malacca Strait to combat piracy,” a spokesman for Wall to Wall said.

“A trial process has now begun. Neil, Rebecca and Wall to Wall are cooperating fully with the relevant authorities, and we hope that Neil and Rebecca will be released and reunited with their families as soon as possible, having been detained for four months.”

Foreign journalists who want to report in Indonesia need to apply for a special visa which can take weeks to be issued and can be denied.

Violations of Indonesian immigration law carries a possible five-year jail term. In the past, Indonesia has deported foreign journalists or given shorter prison terms.

Two French reporters spent two and a half months in jail last year after being caught in Indonesia’s Papua province trying to make a documentary on a separatist movement while also on tourist visas.

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Reporters Without Borders, a press freedoms advocacy group, said nine Indonesians are also facing a possible two-year jail term or a large fine for helping to film an unauthorised documentary.

A UK foreign office spokesman told the Guardian that “embassy staff are providing assistance to two British nationals detained in Batam, Indonesia”.
“We are also in regular contact with their families and legal representatives. We have had a number of discussions with Indonesian authorities regarding this case, and will continue to follow it very closely,” he said.

Bonner and Prosser will appear in court again on Thursday.;

Report: The Guardian

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