This is a ZNet Update. It is a bit unusual, a call to help save a person's life -- 
Billy Nessen, a journalist, who happens also to be a friend of mine. 

Billy Nessen is trapped in the military zone in Aceh province in Indonesia. Billy is a 
freelance journalist who has been reporting on the burgeoning independence movement in 
Aceh.  Now he is trying to leave the war zone and is being prevented from doing so by 
the Indonesian government soldiers.  It is essential that people please send faxes to 
the Indonesian government and to the US Ambassador to Indonesia.  The details are 
below, following an article about the issue and situation from Kurt Biddle.

Michael Albert,
For ZNet


U.S. Journalist in Danger
Reporters and Human Rights Defenders Targeted for Exposing Indonesian Military 
Atrocities in Aceh 

Kurt Biddle

Contact: Kurt Biddle, Coordinator, Indonesia Human Rights Network, 510-559-7762

June 19, 2003 < The U.S.-based Indonesia Human Rights Network (IHRN) today called upon 
the Indonesian government to respect freedom of the press, ensure the safety of 
journalists and human rights workers working in Aceh, and to end harassment and 
intimidation of activists and reporters focusing on the war-torn region.

The life of American William ³Billy² Nessen, the only journalist to spend time with 
the rebel Free Aceh Movement (GAM) since Indonesia renewed the war on Aceh in mid-May, 
is in danger. The Indonesian military (TNI) has demanded that Nessen turn himself in. 
Nessen is refusing to give himself up to the TNI and has requested that he be allowed 
to leave Indonesia without being stopped or interrogated. He also asks that the U.S. 
Embassy or an independent third party meet and escort him out of the country. Because 
these conditions have not been guaranteed, Nessen missed the TNIıs June 14 deadline to 

"I am not going to turn myself in," Nessen told the Sydney Morning Herald. "My fear is 
of being shot, tortured, beaten and arrested and held indefinitely in a black hole." 
The military operation commander for Aceh, Brigadier-General Bambang Darmono, has said 
that Nessen will be arrested.

Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent 
a letter on June 15 to Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri requesting that 
Nessenıs safety and safe passage out of Indonesia be ensured.

On June 10, the New York based Committee to Protect Journalists also sent a letter to 
Megawati urging immediate action to ensure Nessenıs safety. The Paris-based Reporters 
Without Borders sent a similar letter to Indonesian military officials.

Aceh provincial governor, Abullah Puteh, recently commented, ³Foreign journalists are 
here to stir up problems in Aceh² and cited Nessen as an example.

The press has repeatedly come under fire during the Indonesian militaryıs renewed war 
on Aceh. Snipers have ambushed several press vehicles. Police and army officials have 
interrogated journalists reporting on TNI atrocities against civilians; some 
journalists have received death threats. Indonesia is employing an ³embedded reporter² 
program < Indonesian journalists undergo ³boot camp² style training and wear military 
uniforms. Reporters have been warned not to report on military abuses they have 
witnessed. Mohamad Jamal, a cameraman for the Indonesian government-run television 
station TVRI, was kidnapped by unknown men on May 20, the day after current military 
operations began in Aceh. Jamalıs body was found on June 17 in a river near Banda 
Aceh, bound and gagged with duct tape with a noose around his neck.

A reporter for Indonesian television station SCTV, Dhandy Dwi Laksono, was fired after 
interviewing an Acehnese man was about being tortured by the TNI. According to 
Laksono, the station received threatening messages from the military after the 
interview aired.

Human rights workers and lawyers have also been subject to attacks for their work in 
Aceh. Many have fled the region. Indonesiaıs National Human Rights Commission says 
there have been arbitrary arrests of human rights workers. Last month, an organized 
mob of 100 thugs attacked the Jakarta office and staff of the Commission for 
Disappearances and Victims of Violence (KONTRAS) because of the NGOıs criticism of 
government actions in Aceh.

The Indonesian military shot two German tourists two weeks ago. Luther Hendrik Albert 
was killed by the TNI, and his wife, Elizabeth Margareth, was shot in the leg. 
Indonesia has since banned all foreigners from going to Aceh. 


Nessen has written articles about Indonesian military repression for the San Francisco 
Chronicle, the Boston Globe, the Independent (UK) and the Sydney Morning Herald 

Aceh, on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra in the Western end of the 
Indonesian archipelago, is the site of one of Asia's longest running wars. For almost 
27 years, the armed Free Aceh Movement (GAM) has been demanding independence from 
Indonesia. On December 9, 2002, an important cease-fire agreement (CoHA) was signed 
between Indonesia and GAM. Both sides were subsequently criticized for violating the 
agreement. In February, Indonesian security forces began actively undermining the CoHA 
by targeting peaceful political and human rights activists for arrest. At talks in 
Tokyo, the Indonesian government demanded that GAM drop its goal of independence and 
disband in order to continue the talks < conditions that GAM could not fulfill. On May 
19, 2003, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri declared martial law in Aceh. A 
few hours later, hundreds of Indonesian troops poured in and renewed attacks on both 
GAM and Acehnese civilians. Numerous civilians and five GAM negotiators were arrested. 
Under martial law they are not allowed legal representation for twenty days; this can 
be extended to fifty days. The current TNI offensive is only increasing Acehnese 
desires for independence from Indonesia, already widespread due to the brutality of 
Indonesian military and police and the lack of Acehnese control over the regionıs rich 
natural resources.

The income Indonesia draws from the Aceh gas fields is a quarter of the countryıs 
natural resource revenues; ExxonMobil provides Indonesian troops with economic and 
material support, and Acehnese activists and the Washington based International Labor 
Rights Fund charge the oil giant with complicity in TNI murder, kidnapping and rape of 
Acehnese living near the plant.

Human rights groups estimate some 200 civilians have been killed in Aceh since 
Indonesia declared martial law on May 19. Over 40,000 people have fled their homes; 
many are in camps without clean drinking water and adequate sanitation. Indonesia has 
estimated that over 300,000 people will be displaced in the military operation.

IHRN is a U.S.-based grassroots organization working to educate and activate the 
American public and influence U.S. foreign policy and international economic interests 
to support democracy, demilitarization, and justice through accountability and rule of 
law in Indonesia. IHRN seeks to end armed forces repression in Indonesia by exposing 
it to international scrutiny. IHRN works with and advocates on behalf of people 
throughout the Indonesian archipelago to strengthen civil society. For more 
information see


URGENT: US journalist's life in danger in Aceh Province, Indonesia. 

Friends: Last month the Indonesian military commenced a major offensive against the 
Free Aceh Movement (the GAM). At that time, a US journalist, Billy Nessen, was 
traveling with and writing about the GAM, and is now trapped in the fighting. Last 
week he attempted to enter a government controlled area, was fired upon and fled, 
losing his camera, computer, and passport.

The Indonesian military is widely known for brutality in East Timor. Obviously they do 
not want outside observers in Aceh, and Nessen is the last international journalist in 
the war zone. Maj. Gen. Endang Suwarya, the head of the martial law administration in 
Aceh, has made threatening comments, refused to promise Nessen safe passage, and 
insisted he "give himself up".

We believe Billy's life is in great danger. The number of Aceh citizens killed is 
unknown, but two German tourists have been shot by the military, and on June 17th an 
Indonesian TV camerman was found dead in Aceh, his hands tied and his eyes and mouth 
taped shut.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, faculty and staff at the Columbia School of 
Journalism (Nessen's alma mater), the San Francisco Local of the National Writers 
Union, Media Alliance, and Billy's friends and family are all working to get him home 

Nessen's life is at stake. Please fax two letters TODAY to:

US Ambassador to Indonesia Ralph Boyce. fax: 011-6221-3435-9922

Indonesian Ambassador to the U.S. Soemadi D.M. Brotodiningrat. fax: 202-775-5365

Faxing is best, but if you don't have access to a fax, please send these messages via 


For more information, Google Billy Nessen, contact the Committee to Protect 
Journalists at the site below, or email [EMAIL PROTECTED]




Sir: I am aware that US journalist Billy Nessen is in great danger in Aceh province, 

It is the international right of journalists to travel freely and interview who they 
choose in the course of their work.

It is the responsibility of the US and Indonesian governments to uphold these rights.

I demand that a ranking member of the US embassy travel to Aceh province and escort 
Billy Nessen out of the fighting and that the Indonesian government allow Nessen to 
leave the country without injury, arrest, or interrogation.

Sincerely, Title if pertinent.


>From the Committee to Protect Journalist, NYNY INDONESIA: American journalist in 
>danger in Aceh

June 10, 2003

TO: Her Excellency Megawati Sukarnoputri President, Republic of Indonesia Office of 
the President Bina Graha, Jalan Veteran No. 1 Jakarta Pusat, Indonesia

 Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply concerned about the safety of 
American free-lance journalist William Nessen, who is currently traveling with 
separatist rebels in the restive Indonesian province of Aceh, where a massive military 
campaign is underway. The group Nessen is with has come under direct attack from 
Indonesian government soldiers, and his life is currently at great risk.

Nessen has been covering the insurgency in Aceh for years and is known for having rare 
access to rebels with the Free Aceh Movement, known by its Indonesian acronym as GAM. 
A free-lance reporter and photographer, he has contributed to such publications as The 
Boston Globe, The Sydney Morning Herald, and the British newspaper The Independent.

Nessen last spoke to his wife, Shadia Marhaban, at about 5:30 p.m., local time, using 
a satellite phone. During this conversation, he said that when he attempted to 
surrender to government soldiers, troops opened fire, forcing him to flee with the 
rebels for safety. "I could hear gunfire, and then the line went dead," Marhaban told 

Yesterday, Maj. Gen. Endang Suwarya, the head of the martial law administration in 
Aceh, told a press conference that he was aware that an American journalist was 
trapped in rebel-held territory. However, Suwarya added that it was up to the reporter 
to extract himself from danger as, "We cannot guarantee the safety of foreign 
journalists in Aceh," according to The Associated Press and the regional daily Serambi 

After the military offensive was launched on May 19, Suwarya stated that he would no 
longer allow the views of GAM to be reported by the media. Indonesian authorities have 
said repeatedly that Suwarya has the sole discretion to control the media in Aceh. 
Authorities also have announced their intention to ban all foreign journalists from 
reporting in Aceh, an order that has yet to go into effect.


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