UK journalists on trial over Indon film

  • 30/09/2015
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Two British journalists have gone on trial in Indonesia for allegedly trying to make a documentary about piracy without the correct visas, and could face up to five years in jail.

Neil Bonner, 32, and Rebecca Prosser, 31, appeared in court together on Monday (local time) on the western island of Batam accused of having only tourist visas while attempting to make the film, Ali Akbar, a senior official at the local prosecutor's office, said on Tuesday.

"They have broken Indonesian immigration law and could be jailed for up to five years if found guilty," he said.

Foreign journalists wanting to report in Indonesia must get a special visa. However, foreign reporters detained in Indonesia for illegal reporting in the past have been deported immediately or handed short prison terms.

According to their indictment seen by AFP, the pair arrived in Indonesia in May to shoot the film for production house Wall to Wall with funding from National Geographic.

It added they had hired several Indonesians to act out a scene of a tanker being boarded by a group of pirates off Batam. The island is in the Malacca Strait, a major shipping lane.

"Acting on tip-off from residents, the Indonesian navy carried out a raid and arrested them," the indictment said, adding they had carried out activities that were "not appropriate" on a tourist visa.

The next hearing is on Thursday.

Two French journalists were given jail terms of two-and-a-half months last year after being caught in Indonesia's Papua province trying to make a documentary on a separatist movement while on tourist visas.