The Indonesian government, already under attack for human rights violations, fueled the situation further Tuesday by barring two Australian journalists aboard a White House-chartered press plane from covering President Reagan’s visit here.
The journalists were held at the airport and ordered to “transit immediately” in retaliation for an article that appeared in a Sydney newspaper. The article compared the wealth amassed by the family of Indonesian President Suharto to that of deposed Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Reagan’s plane touched down on the island of Bali shortly after the press plane. He was given a red-carpet welcome by Suharto and will meet privately with the Indonesian president on Thursday.
Administration officials had hoped that the sensitive question of human rights would not dominate Reagan’s discussions here, but the incident with the journalists is likely to bring the issue into sharper focus.
Indonesian authorities also barred Barbara Crossette, a New York Times correspondent based in Bangkok, Thailand, from covering the Reagan visit.
Crossette was expelled from Indonesia recently after writing articles that also made the Marcos comparison and cited human rights violations. She returned to Bali on Tuesday but was ordered out once again, leaving aboard a plane for Singapore without her luggage, according to a New York Times spokesman.
White House Support
White House officials had worked unsuccessfully to resolve the plight of the Australian journalists since Sunday, when they received a cable from the Indonesian Information Ministry advising them that they would not be allowed to enter the country.
White House spokesman Larry Speakes said it is Administration policy that all accredited journalists be allowed to cover Reagan’s visit.
As the two journalists left the plane in Bali after a 14-hour flight from Honolulu, they were accompanied by White House Deputy Press Secretary Edward P. Djerejian.
Djerejian made one last attempt on their behalf, but he was turned away by Indonesian officials. “They said their decision was firm,” he reported.
The two journalists are Richard Palfreyman, Washington correspondent for the Australian Broadcasting Corp., and James Middleton, a radio reporter for the network. They had no direct involvement with the newspaper story that charged the Suharto government with widespread corruption.
However, Indonesia, which has been extremely sensitive to criticism in the past, barred all Australian journalists from covering Reagan’s visit after the April 10 article in Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald. The article alleged that Suharto and his relatives enriched themselves through favoritism and government contracts.
Palfreyman and Middleton were departing for Tokyo, where Reagan will confer beginning Sunday with the leaders of six other democratic nations in an economic summit meeting.
Paul D. Wolfowitz, the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, had urged the Indonesians to withdraw the ban on the journalists for fear that it would draw attention to the human rights issue.