U.S. journalist seeks safe passage out of Aceh province
- Journalists worried that Indonesian military wants to question him about rebel forces whereabouts.
June 18, 2003 — The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, continues to negotiate the safe passage of William Nesson, an American journalist, from the country’s Aceh province who was shot at by Indonesian military while traveling with rebel forces on June 9, according to Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based free press organization.
Nesson has reported on a freelance basis on the Aceh rebellion, a 27-year conflict in which rebels with the Free Aceh Movement, known by its Indonesian acronym GAM, have been fighting for an independent Aceh state. He has written for a number of newspapers, including The Boston Globe and The Sydney Morning Herald. Most recently, Nesson was a correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle, but has been unable to send stories because the military blocked communication lines, according to Reporters without Borders.
Nessen, who has been traveling with the GAM, says he is worried that if he surrenders to the Indonesian military, he will be interrogated for information regarding the rebel group’s whereabouts, according to an Agence France-Presse report.
Nesson spoke to the Indonesia military on June 14 and said he would surrender under three conditions; that he not be interrogated, not be arrested and not be shot, Aceh military spokesman Achmad Yani Basuki told Agence France-Presse. According to the report, Nesson also demanded that U.S. embassy staff and international Red Cross representatives be present when he surrenders.
According to an Agence France-Presse interview with Basuki, Brigadier General Bambang Darmono assured Nessen he would not be shot at but would still be questioned about his relationship with GAM.
“There’s pressure being applied to the Indonesian government through various channels,” said Abi Wright, spokeswoman for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
The committee wrote Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri on June 10 asking for the safe release of Nessen. Wright also said that many of Nessen’s connections at Columbia University’s School of Journalism, where he received his degree, are trying to help him.
Tuesday, Nessen conducted an interview with the Australian press in which he told reporter Jo Massocchi about the atrocities he witnessed by the Indonesian military upon civilians.”They [the villagers] did not have guns, they were not shooting at them, this was not cover fire from the Indonesians, which they’re claiming that they bring in the planes when they’re fighting the Indonesians,” Nessen said, according to an Australian Broadcasting report. “These were hundreds of unarmed people looking up at the planes.”
© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press