BBC Journalist Expelled From Indonesia's Papua Over Controversial Tweet

By | February 03, 2018 Leave a Comment
By Staff Writer

The Indonesian immigration agency has seized the passport of Australian journalist Rebecca Alice Henschke after her controversial tweets criticizing Indonesian Government in handling the epidemic of measles and malnutrition in Papua Province.

Henschke tweeted on February 1st on her Twitter account @rebeccahenschke about aid supplies that appear to contain mainly junk food.

One of the tweets shows a photo of supplies sitting on a dock and says, "This is the aid coming in for severely malnourished children in Papua - instant noodles, super sweet soft drinks and biscuits."

Another tweet says "children in hospital eating chocolate biscuits and that's it".

Henschke, 37, is a BBC Indonesia bureau chief who has been reporting from Indonesia for 12 years. She was supposed to be in Papua to cover an epidemic of measles and malnutrition in Asmat, Papua Province, which has now killed at least 60 children.

Directorate General of Immigration spokesman Agung Sampurno said in a statement Saturday that Henschke's tweets rise to negative perceptions and impressions of the Indonesian government ini handling the epidemic.

"The tweets were not respect and comply with Indonesian laws and regulations," said Sampurno.

"We hold the passport until the inspection process is done," he said.

Henschke's actions, said Sampurno, not only offended the Government but also the people of Indonesia who have been witnessing the progress of development in Papua, and violated the profession of journalists who must be balanced in reporting the news.

"In fact the Government of Indonesia has been trying very hard in providing humanitarian assistance to the disaster that currently affects the Asmat community," said Sampurno.

Sampurno said Henschke's activity as a foreigner is overseen by the Pora Team (Supervision of Strangers) which consists of various agencies outside of Immigration, including the security agency.

"This practice is commonly practiced in all countries and part of government functions and duties in safeguarding sovereignty," Sampurno said.

He said the national immigration policy based on selective policy, in which only foreigners bring benefits to the nation and countries that are allowed to enter and stay in Indonesia.

"Therefore, anyone who is in Indonesia's jurisdiction, including foreigners, must respect and comply with existing laws and regulations," he said.

Sampurno said his agency and other pora team will continue to monitor the progress of the case.

"Hopefully it will be a learning for other foreigners so that when they live in Indonesia, they must respect the applicable regulations," Sampurno said.

Henschke has in fact corrected her tweets about items that she thinks is aid: "Adding important NOTE: Other sources say this is NOT aid but normal supplies. Huge relief effort underway here."

Spokesman of the military in Papua, Colonel Muhammad Aidi also corrected Henschke's tweet.

"The tweet is not in line with the truth. What was captured in the photo of the speedboat dock is the supplies from merchants who happened to be in that place," Aidi said.

The army also objected to the Henschke's tweet that showed a photo of soldiers with a caged young bird, which implied the soldiers were involved in an illegal wildlife purchase.

"The soldiers were looking at the birds that were offered to them," he said.

"How come Rebecca wrote and uploaded the picture like that? This is defamation; someone's picture was taken secretly then distributed to media with information that is not in line with the truth." Said Aidi, referring to Henschke.

Henschke has escorted out of Papua Friday morning.

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