Palangkaraya/Indonesia (22/1). Mongabay.com reports that Philip Jacobson, an editor for the environmental news outlet Mongabay, has been arrested for an alleged visa violation in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, on Tuesday after being put under city arrest for a month.
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.
According to Aryo Nugroho Waluyo, Jacobson had been in Central Kalimantan since mid-December 2019. At that time, he discussed with Mongabay journalists in Palangkaraya a writing plan about the land dispute between the indigenous peoples and businessmen.
AMAN is long considered an extreme indigenous organization for fighting for the creation of indigenous state within the state and special laws effectively creating a second class of citizens. AMAN like many other foreign sponsored NGOs in Indonesia and throughout the region represent the vanguard of activism of global issues.
National security authorities are questioning the purpose of activists like Jacobson who as reporting suggest crossed the threshold of reporting. When journalism crosses over to activism national security authorities are sensitive of foreign action that destabilize the communities.
Indonesia and other countries in the region have been subjected to negative press, foreign activists and communal disorders for years. Case in point activists successfully impacted the Indonesian and Malaysian commodity market as part of a sustained campaign.
Mongabay.com stated Jacobson 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.
From a press statement issued by the Palangkaraya Non-TPI Class I Immigration Office, it was stated that investigators had found two pieces of evidence that were sufficient to establish Philip as a suspect.
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 Class II Detention Center.
“We are supporting Philip in this ongoing 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.