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Indonesia responds after claim official attempted to bribe RNZ Pacific journalist

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Indonesia - MSG 2023

Melanesian Spearhead Group flags Photo: RNZ Pacific / Kelvin Anthony

A Radio New Zealand journalist says an Indonesian government official attempted to bribe and intimidate him at the recent 22nd Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders’ meeting in Port Vila.

The Indonesian government has responded on Monday saying it will “surely look” into the claims.

RNZ journalist Kelvin Anthony was in Port Vila to cover the MSG Leaders’ Summit two weeks ago when he was offered “a gift” after an exclusive interview with Indonesia’s Ambassador to Australia, Dr Siswo Pramono.

The alleged bribe was offered between 1pm-1.10pm on Wednesday, 23 August in the carpark of the Holiday Inn Resort in Port Vila by Indonesian government representative Ardi Nuswantoro, Anthony said.

“I was offered an exclusive interview with the Indonesia’s Ambassador to Australia at the MSG meeting after being told earlier in the week by Ardi Nuswantoro that his government did not like what RNZ had published on West Papua and that it was not balanced,” he said.

“I advised the delegate that RNZ makes every effort to be balanced and fair and we want to get Indonesia’s side too, but we need the chance to speak on the record.”

After communicating face-to-face and online via WhatsApp – texts and call records seen by RNZ – Nuswantoro asked Anthony to visit the Holiday Inn Resort at 12pm for the interview on Wednesday, 23 August.

“I interviewed Dr Pramono covering a broad set of questions including human rights issues in West Papua, the MSG meeting, and Jakarta’s intentions in the Pacific, which lasted over 40 minutes,” Anthony said.

“I thought I had an exclusive interview that went well for a strong story out of the meeting that touched sensitive but pertinent issues involving Indonesia, the West Papua issue, and the Pacific.”

Anthony said he was escorted out of the reception area at the end of the interview and accompanied by at least three Indonesian officials.

He said Nuswantoro, who he was liaising with to set up the interview, “asked me several times if I had a car and how I was going to get back”.

“I told them that my colleague from a local media who was with me was driving me back to town. As we walked to the car park, the same official continued to walk with me and just as we were about to approach the car, he said, ‘The Indonesian delegation would like to offer you token of appreciation’.”

“I asked him, ‘What’s that?’ He replied, ‘A small gift’.

“I asked him again, ‘But what is it?’ And he replied: ‘Money’.

“At that point I was shell-shocked because I had never experienced something like that in my career.

“I declined to accept the money and told him, ‘I cannot take money because it compromises the story and my credibility and integrity as a journalist’.”

Anthony said the Indonesian official looked visibly withdrawn at the rejection and apologised for offering money.

Due to the incident RNZ chose at the time not to air the interview with Dr Pramono.

RNZ put the claims of bribery and intimidation to the Indonesian government.

In an email response, Jakarta’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Asia Pacific and African Affairs director general Abdul Kadir Jailani neither confirmed nor denied the claims.

“Bribery has never been our policy nor approach to journalists,” Jailani said.

“We will surely look into it,” he said.

Source: RNZ

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