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Mongabay editor arrested in Indonesia

Philip Jacobson, an award-winning editor for the environmental science news outlet Mongabay, has been arrested for an alleged visa violation in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 after being put under city arrest for a month.

Philip Jacobson
Philip Jacobson

Jacobson, 30, was first detained on December 17, 2019 after attending a hearing between the Central Kalimantan parliament and the local chapter of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), Indonesia’s largest indigenous rights advocacy group.

He had travelled to the city shortly after entering Indonesia on a business visa for a series of meetings. The day he was due to leave, immigration authorities seized his passport, interrogated him for four hours and ordered him to remain in the city pending their investigation.

On January 21, more than a month later, Jacobson was formally arrested and taken into custody. He was informed that he faces charges of violating the 2011 immigration law and a prison sentence of up to five years. He is now being held at a prison in Palangkaraya.

“We are supporting Philip in this on-going case and making every effort to comply with Indonesia’s immigration authorities,” said Mongabay Founder and CEO Rhett A. Butler. “I am surprised that immigration officials have taken such punitive action against Philip for what is an administrative matter.”

Jacobson’s arrest comes shortly after Human Rights Watch issued a report documenting rising violence against activists and environmentalists in Indonesia, and amid a growing sense that critical voices are being suppressed.

“Journalists and people employed by journalism organizations should be free to work in Indonesia without fear of arbitrary detention,” said Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch, who knows Jacobson and understands his case. “Philip Jacobson’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.”

Last month the Indonesian Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) issued a report documenting 53 incidents of abuse against journalists, including five criminal cases, in 2019.

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