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Asia-Pacific

French journalists detained in Papua will go free

media The two French journalists, Valentine Bourrat and Thomas Dandois,with an interpreter in Jayapura INDRAYADI / AFP

Two French journalists were handed jail terms for illegal reporting in Indonesia's Papua province, but will be freed next week as they have already served time in custody.

A conflict between the Indonesian state and an anti-government movement in the country's Papua province has been simmering for decades.

For years, the Indonesian state has kept journalists away, rarely allowing any foreign reporting on the region.

Valentine Bourrat and Thomas Dandois were filming for a documentary about the separatist movement for the Franco-German television channel Arte when they were detained by Indonesian authorities in early August.

The journalists had been in contact with the separatist group Free Papua Movement (OPM), which has been leading the fight against the central government.

Papua, which comprises the western half of the island of New Guinea, lags behind the rest of the country in development though it is rich in resources which are exploited by the Indonesian state. 

The journalists pleaded guilty to illegally reporting while travelling on tourist, not journalistic, visas at their trial in Jayapura, the capital of Papua province.

They will be freed next week as they have already spent an equivalent amount of time on remand, according to their lawyer.

The events have sparked calls from international organisations, such as Human Rights Watch, for the Indonesian government to overhaul its complex system for foreign journalists to apply for visas. Any request to report on Papua requires approval by 18 different government agencies.

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