An Australian journalist has been released from custody and has left the Indonesian province of Papua after being detained for more than 24 hours over an ‘inflammatory’ tweet.
BBC Indonesian bureau chief Rebecca Henschke posted a photo on Thursday depicting a shipment of “instant noodles, super sweet soft drinks and biscuits”, saying it was aid sent for malnourished children.
She soon tweeted again, claiming children in hospital were eating chocolate biscuits and “that’s it”.
Children in hospital eating chocolate biscuits and that's it.
— rebecca henschke (@rebeccahenschke) February 1, 2018
Henschke clarified in a later tweet that she had since been informed by other sources that the shipment wasn’t aid, but a regular delivery of supplies.
She was arrested by the Indonesian National Armed Forces in Asmat at 10am on Friday (local time) for “disturbing public order”, under the provisions of immigration law.
Henschke was not formally charged.
Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Muhammad Aidi, said the tweets amount to defaming the military health taskforce.
The spokesperson for the director general of Immigration, Agung Sampurno, said Henschke’s report not only offended the government, but also injured the journalism profession.
The military has denied the shipment was aid, and Henschke has apologised for her tweet.
Andreas Harsono, the researcher at Human Rights Watch Indonesia who advocated for Henschke’s release, says she was questioned by police, and then immigration authorities, for more than 10 hours.
He says the ordeal was a “major embarrassment” for the military.
“It is horrible that this is what the Indonesian military is spending their energy on during a public health crisis in Papua.”
“Rebecca’s 24-hour arrest showed that President Jokowi’s decision to open up Papua just does not materialise.”
“She has her travel permit – the only Indonesian area where foreign journalists need to get a permit to visit – and still got intimidation for a single tweet.”
Mr Harsono says the intimidation faced by Henschke is not a new tactic.
While immigration officials have said Henschke is allowed to continue reporting in Papua, after her ordeal she has decided to return to Jakarta.
Originally from New South Wales, Henschke has lived and worked in Indonesia for more than a decade, and has since married and had a child in the country.
She had travelled to Papua to report on the ongoing health emergency in the region.