"The decision to expel two international staff members of the International
Crisis Group (ICG) this week is the latest in a growing number of acts by
the Indonesian government that are restricting the possibility of reporting
on the political, security and human rights situation in the country," said
The two ICG staff members were ordered on Monday to leave Indonesia,
allegedly because they have violated the terms of their work permits.
However, their forced removal appears to have resulted from complaints by
the Head of the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) and the Foreign Minister
that ICG reports are biased and threaten national security.
Amnesty regards the decision as a serious blow to
freedom of expression in Indonesia and the right of the public to access
The Head of BIN, General Hendropriyono, has said that another 19
non-governmental organizations (NGOs), who it is claimed are also a threat
to national security, are being monitored. The Jakarta-based Institute for
Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM) is the only one that has so far been
"This heavy-handed approach combined with the total lack of
transparency appears calculated to create fear within the domestic and
international NGO community" said Amnesty. "Such tactics were
the hall-mark of the authoritarian former President Suharto. It is shocking
to see them being employed at a moment when Indonesia claims to be on a
path of democratic reform."
These latest developments highlight a disturbing trend in Indonesia
in which a growing number of NGOs, political activists and journalists have
been subjected to various forms of harassment and intimidation.
During 2003, at least 30 prisoners of conscience were sentenced to
terms of imprisonment. Among them were newspaper editors who published
material deemed to be insulting to political leaders and activists who
participated in peaceful protests against government policies.
Publishing information on human rights violations appears to be
particularly sensitive, nowhere less so than in Papua and Nanggroe Aceh
Darussalam (NAD) where the government is engaged in counter-insurgency
operations against armed opposition groups.
In NAD there has been a virtual ban on all independent reporting and
human rights monitoring since the imposition of a military emergency in May
2003. Organizations that have been critical of the military operations or
published details about the grave human rights situation in the province
have been accused of bias. Elsewhere, defamation suits have been brought
against NGO activists who have accused the police or military of committing
human rights violations.
"If permitted to continue, this steady erosion of the hard won gains
of the post-Suharto era, including greater freedom of expression, will
inhibit the right of the Indonesian people to be informed about and
participate fully in the development of their country" said Amnesty.