Lincoln journalist faces Indonesian jail term over visa breach

A Lincolnshire journalist faces a jail sentence of up to five years for allegedly trying to make a documentary about piracy without the correct visa in Indonesia.

Neil Bonner, 32, from North Hykeham has been held for five months with London filmmaker Rebecca Prosser, 31, after they were arrested off the western island of Batam on May 28.

Their trial began at the end of September, with local prosecutor Ali Akbar saying: “They have broken Indonesian immigration law and could be jailed for up to five years if found guilty.”

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.

The pair arrived in Indonesia in May to shoot the film for production house Wall to Wall with funding from National Geographic, according to their indictment.

Indonesian prosecutors, on Thursday, October 23, recommended that they be sentenced to five months in jail.

Prosecutor Bani Ginting told Batam district court that the journalists had been proven “legally and convincingly guilty” of misusing their tourist visas for “inappropriate activity”.

“Each of them should be jailed five months… and fined 50 million rupiah ($3,700),” he said.

Neil’s mother, Barbara Shaw, said: “Neil is bearing up OK under the circumstances.

“Neil is heartened by the incredible support he’s received – letters from people all over the world. It just shows you what a good man he is.”

A spokesperson for Wall to Wall added: “They travelled to Indonesia to film footage for an episode of a National Geographic factual television programme, looking at the good work done by law enforcement agencies in the Malacca Strait to combat piracy.”

The two journalists are due to be sentenced on November 3.