Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

There’s No Place Like CounterPunch

There's no place like CounterPunch, it's just that simple. And as the radical space within the "alternative media"(whatever that means) landscape continues to shrink, sanctuaries such as CounterPunch become all the more crucial for our political, intellectual, and moral survival. Add to that the fact that CounterPunch won't inundate you with ads and corporate propaganda. So it should be clear why CounterPunch needs your support: so it can keep doing what it's been doing for nearly 25 years. As CP Editor, Jeffrey St. Clair, succinctly explained, "We lure you in, and then punch you in the kidneys." Pleasant and true though that may be, the hard-working CP staff is more than just a few grunts greasing the gears of the status quo.

So come on, be a pal, make a tax deductible donation to CounterPunch today to support our annual fund drive, if you have already donated we thank you! If you haven't, do it because you want to. Do it because you know what CounterPunch is worth. Do it because CounterPunch needs you. Every dollar is tax-deductible. (PayPal accepted)

Thank you,
Eric Draitser

Indonesia’s War on Journalists


Good news came Tuesday from Indonesia, where American journalist William Nessen was successfully allowed to leave rebel territory in oil-rich Aceh, where he had been covering the struggle by Aceh rebels to win independence from Indonesia and to resist a major assault by Indonesian troops.

Nessen had been overtly threatened with arrest and even death by notoriously brutal Indonesian military officers, and a major campaign had been mounted by the Committee to Protect Journalists and other organizations to protect him and negotiate an agreement for his safe return from the jungle.

In the end, after considerable pressure on an initially indifferent U.S. embassy and State Department, an arrangement was reportedly negotiated whereby Nessen was able to cross over into Indonesian military-controlled territory in the presence of an officer from the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia and the chief information officer of the Indonesian military. Nessen, an accredited journalist who was writing from Indonesia for the Boston Globe and the San Francisco Chronicle, agreed as part of the deal to be questioned by military personnel in the presence of a U.S. embassy official.

Nessen’s “crime”–and the reason his life was in danger in recent days–is that he had failed to abide by the Indonesian military’s restraints on journalists covering the counter-insurgency campaign in Aceh. The Indonesian army had recently taken a page from the Pentagon, and had “embedded” journalists with its troops, making that the only way for journalists to cover the campaign legally. Nessen, following the old rules of reporting, had simply gone off on his own to cover the story, walking into rebel territory. Nessen had also filed reports from the war zone via cell phone, in which he accused the Indonesian military of committing attrocities, including bombing villages and deliberately causing starvation. (His mention of the role of U.S. military equipment in the campaign, including F-16 fighter-bombers probably didn’t endear him with American diplomats in Jakarta or Washington, either.)

His harrowing experience–he was caught in one fire-fight and had to abandon his camera and video equipment, which were subsequently found and impounded by the Indonesian army–raises an interesting question: How would the Pentagon handle a reporter who was as daring and enterprising as Nessen these days?

I am afraid the answer is not pretty to contemplate.

One good example is provided by the current war in Iraq (yeah, I know, Bush says it’s been over since May 1, but does anyone really believe that?).

Those journalists who didn’t listen when, on the eve of America’s invasion of Iraq, the president urged them to flee Baghdad, found themselves subject to attack by bombers, in the case of Al Jazeera’s office, and tanks, in the case of the hotel where all other foreign journalists were quartered. Several of these courageous journalists who stayed on in Baghdad paid for their pluck with their lives.

Several other journalists in southern Iraq who went off on their own during the early days of battle were also slain, though the circumstances there are less clear.

And what about that other war–the so-called war on terrorism? One can only imagine how the Ashcroft “Justice” Department would treat any reporter who managed to get inside the Al Qaeda operation to follow it’s side of the battle.

Armed with the power to secretly arrest and imprison anyone, and to hold her or him incommunicado indefinitely as an “enemy combatant,” it’s possible we wouldn’t even know about such a reporter’s exploits. Like Jose Padilla, an native-born American citizen who has been held without charge and without access to a lawyer (or even a family member) now in a South Carolina military brig for over a year, they could simply disappear along with their stories. (For all we know, given the level of secrecy imposed by the Bush Administration in this case, Padilla was just a freelance journalist trying to get a story!)

Given this kind of threat, it is perhaps understandable that there has been so little aggressive reporting being done by mainstream journalists regarding America’s new wars. That is a tragedy.

We need more William Nessens out there.

For now though, we can at least celebrate Nessen’s escape from the Indonesian Army, and look forward to reading about his experiences with Aceh independence fighters.


The good news regarding Nessen was tempered with word on Thursday that despite promises to U.S. diplomatic officials that he would not be charged with anything, subsequent to his voluntarily turning himself in to Indonesian military authorities in Aceh, he was arrested and charged with violating two sections of Indonesia’s immigration law. One section requires foreigners to state their intentions for living in Indonesia; a second requires foreign visitors to notify military or police authorities if traveling to conflict areas.

Nessen, who was in Indonesia on a journalist’s visa, had gone to Aceh before the military declared martial law in the province and began requiring special permission to visit the troubled province.

Under the law, he can now be held in police custody for 20 days, followed by a possible extension of 40 days. At the end of those three months, authorities could decide to prosecute him.

Lin Neumann, Asia consultant with the Committee to Protect Journalists, who had been involved in negotiations to win safe conduct across military lines for Nessen, expressed surprise at the latest turn of events, saying, “The spirit of talks with the Indonesian authorities was that Nessen would be allowed to leave the country if he turned himself in, and we think that should be honored.”

U.S. embassy officials in Jakarta also expressed surprise at the detention and charges leveled against Nessen.

Those seeking more information about Nessen’s case, or about how they can help, should go to the CPJ website

Dave Lindorff is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. A collection of Lindorff’s stories can be found here:

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation wasted $32.2 million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians