Exiled Indonesian Journalist Wants to Go Home

Under threat of assassination, CM Rien Kuntari fled to New York in 2009.

It’s been another challenging year in New York for CM Rien Kuntari.

Speaking to Columbia Graduate School of Journalism news site NY City Lens, she explained that as her asylum application process has dragged on, her Indonesian passport expired at the beginning of the year and she was denied permission to travel overseas this fall. Kuntari fled to the U.S. from Indonesia in 2009 after her book East Timor, The Final Hours: A Journalist’s Notes prompted the country’s military to reportedly target her for assassination. From the article by Siddhartha Joag:

For Kuntari, the final straw came last month when she was unable to obtain travel documents to attend the opening of the 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair [Oct. 14-18], where she was invited as a special guest. “Why Frankfurt becomes very important, it’s a chance to for me to show up in person. It brings international attention to my case,” says Kuntari, adding that the fair would have made it difficult for the Indonesian government to target her. “It’s not me, but the government that brought the book to Frankfurt…”

Kuntari smiles when she recalls her time in the field. She talks about befriending generals and gangsters, the first time she met Saddam Hussein and the power of her impenetrable memory. When asked about potential security risks upon her return to Indonesia, Kuntari says, “I will confront them. I am a journalist. Why did I become a journalist? Because journalists confront problems.”

Kuntariu worked for many years for Kompas Daily, Indonesia’s largest newspaper. The CM stands for Cordula Maria.