Global Freedom of Expression

The Case of Becky Prosser and Neil Bonner

In Progress Contracts Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Press / Newspapers
  • Date of Decision
    November 3, 2015
  • Outcome
    Imprisonment, Criminal Sanctions
  • Case Number
  • Region & Country
    Indonesia, Asia and Asia Pacific
  • Judicial Body
    First Instance Court
  • Type of Law
    Criminal Law, Constitutional Law
  • Themes
    Licensing / Media Regulation, Press Freedom

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

Two British journalists and their film crew (comprised of nine Indonesians) were arrested in September 2015 in relation to a documentary they were filming for National Geographic. The filmmakers entered the country on a tourist visa and were charged with violation of immigration laws because they did not obtain a press visa. They were found guilty and sentenced to two months and fifteen days in jail as well as a fine of $2,500.00 (US).

Columbia Global Freedom of Expression could not identify official legal and government records on the case and information on the case was derived from secondary sources. It must be noted that media outlets may not provide complete information about this case.

Additional information regarding legal matters will be updated as an official source becomes available.


Two British journalists were sentenced to two months and 15 days in jail for filming without the appropriate “press visa.” These press visas can take months to process and require the submission of the film proposal as well as letters of recommendation and resumes. According to the Court, the journalists’ tourist visas did not cover filming, and although traditionally violations of the press visa result in deportation, there is a trend towards jailing and fining individuals who violate the press visa law. Violation of the press visa law can subject an individual to up to five years in prison.

The accompanying film crew was arrested for violating Law No. 33/2009 (making a documentary without a license), which can carry a sentence of up to two years in prison or a fine of $769,230.00 (US).

Decision Overview

The Batam District Court Court found the journalists guilty of violating Indonesian immigration laws, but with time served, the journalists only had to stay in the country an additional two days (for a full sentence of two months and fifteen days, much of which was served through house arrest). The film crew has not yet been sentenced.

Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Contracts Expression

This decision contracts expression by fining and imprisoning journalists for filming without first obtaining a press visa. The requirement of obtaining a press visa to film seems to be a way for the government to obstruct journalists from reporting on important issues in Indonesia.

Global Perspective

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Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

National standards, law or jurisprudence

  • Indon., Law No. 33/2009
  • Indon., Law No. 6/2011 on Immigration

Case Significance

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Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

This case did not set a binding or persuasive precedent either within or outside its jurisdiction. The significance of this case is undetermined at this point in time.

The decision was cited in:

Official Case Documents

Reports, Analysis, and News Articles:

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