Medill graduate Philip Jacobson arrested in Indonesia after alleged visa violation


Daily file photo by Owen Stidman

Philip Jacobson was arrested last Tuesday by Indonesian authorities after an alleged visa violation. He is an alum of the Medill School of Journalism.

Austin Benavides, Campus Editor

Northwestern graduate and environmental journalist Philip Jacobson was arrested Tuesday by Indonesian authorities for an alleged visa violation.

Jacobson, an editor for the environmental science website Mongabay, was arrested in the city of Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo. Immigration authorities based their case for arrest on his use of a multiple-entry business visa instead of a journalism visa.

Mongabay Founder and CEO Rhett A. Butler told the Chicago Sun-Times he did not know why Jacobson didn’t have a journalism visa but said attaining one is difficult.

He added that Jacobson was not in Palangkaraya for any “specific journalistic assignment,” and he found it surprising that Indonesian authorities would arrest Jacobson for what he called an “administrative matter.”

Jacobson was first detained Dec. 17 in Indonesia last year after attending a hearing at the parliament a day prior between government officials and the local chapter of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago.

Immigration officials then confiscated his passport and interrogated Jacobson for four hours, ordering him to stay in the city pending their investigation. It would take another month before Jacobson would be formally arrested by Indonesian authorities last Tuesday.

“It’s a very unusual situation for them to take this very severe approach,” Butler said. “It’s not commensurate with what they’d accused him of doing.”

According to the Sun-Times, as of now, Mongabay is covering all of Jacobson’s attorney fees as well as other costs. Jacobson is being represented by a local Indonesian attorney.

Jacobson graduated from NU in 2011, and he worked at the Jakarta Globe after his graduation. In recent years, he divided his time between the United States, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia, according to the Sun-Times.

“(Jacobson has) been fully cooperative with authorities, he hasn’t been adversarial at all and we held off on saying anything publicly for over a month,” Butler told the Sun-Times. “It was only when he was put in jail that we went public.”

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