Saturday, February 11, 2012

Czech Tourist Arrested for Photographing Pro-Independence Demonstration

Police in Papua [Indonesia] detained Czech tourist Petr Zamecnik in Manokwari, 400 kilometers (248 miles) for taking photos of a pro-independence demonstration on Wednesday (February 8).

Zamecnik was then advised by police that according to his immigration declaration he was supposed to be on a holiday in Raja Ampat.

COMMENT: An estimated 100 Papuans marched to the governor’s building on Wednesday, yelling "Free Papua: We are not Indonesians," and carrying a banner showing the outlawed separatist symbol.

One thing that many travelers forget is that the majority of arrests and detentions of foreigners abroad involve immigration violations, often because those on tourist visas are not touring. Although admittedly Mr. Zamecnik might have taken photos of the demonstration as an after-thought, Indonesian officials may not have been like-minded.

Often, tourists and travelers take photos in foreign countries indiscriminately, not realizing that in many cases there are laws against taking photographs of government buildings, local police and officials, religious ceremonies, defense installations, airports (interior and exterior), etc.

It is never a bad idea for foreign visitors to ask their embassy or consulate on what photographic prohibitions exist in the country before you start snapping shutters. As is often said, ignorance of the law is no excuse.

As regards photographing people (i.e., locals) it is far better to ask their permission to take a photo of them before you do so. Actually, when such an approach is used, you may discover that they are willing to have friends take photos of you with them, which adds to the quality of trip photos.

Also, in some countries, a small gratuity is customarily charged for photographing someone, so the best advice is always ask beforehand.

Travelers who violate photographic protocols can find themselves having to surrender their memory card, having their camera confiscated or even being deported, arrested, fined or briefly jailed.

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