Foreign Journalists Need Freedom to Cover Papua

The chairman of the Jayapura city branch of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI),  Victor Mambor - Jubi
The chairman of the Jayapura city branch of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), Victor Mambor – Jubi

Jayapura, Jubi – The chairman of the Jayapura city branch of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI),  Victor Mambor, said although President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has declared that Papua is open to foreign journalists, the fact on the ground is different.

Foreign journalists are still having difficulties in working in Papua, Mambor said.

Foreign journalists should not only be allowed to visit Papua, but also report freely, he said.

Mambor made the remarks during a national seminar held Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) in the auditorium of LIPI, Jalan Gatot Subroto, Jakarta last weekend.

He said, although foreign journalists are free to visit Papua, they are not free to report.

“As journalists, we know the risks. Missing and dying on the spot of coverage is the risk the comes with being a journalist, ” said Mambor, who also is also editor-in-chief of Jubi

According to him, since Jokowi announced restrictions on foreign journalists in Papua were lifted, 18 foreign reporters have visited Papua, 12 of them at the invitation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The other six entered independently. It’s two different things.

Not all foreign journalists can enter Papua independently, even after he did the coverage and wanted to come back to Indonesia. One of them was French journalist Cyril Payen, who some time ago his visa was refused for no apparent reason.

“We appreciate the government rules, but if it is not publicly explained, this will be ” loose cannon or bola liar.” If they are rejected or do not meet the procedures, should be explained openly. Moreover, the problem is the visit letter. French radio reporter was given a letter to go to Jayapura, while he covered not only in Jayapura. It was then a problem when he went out of Jayapura “he said.

“The French came with two permits, to coverage and make a video. Because of the coverage he was called by the Indonesian consulate in Bangkok, “he continued.

According to him, even though foreign journalists has received permission from Jakarta, but there will be Papua police and army involvements when they come. He said they had tried to discuss with the relevant local military commander and police chief foreign correspondent but these two institutions refused.

“I also wonder whether the president’s instruction was known by the police chief and military commander or not.” He said.

At the same occasion, director of the Alliance for Democracy in Papua (ALDP), Latifa Anum Siregar, who also presented as a guest speaker in the seminar stated until now the access of foreign journalists to Papua has not been as expected.

“I think until now there will be journalists who proudly calls itself the first came and got extraordinary flexibility when Jokowi’ve talked to open access of foreign journalists to Papua,” she continued.

Another speaker, Tantowi Yahya, said the president’s decision to open  access for foreign journalists to Papua remained controversial at the central government level.

“When we talk with stakeholders in government, they also have not one word. There is a desire, there is also a look at the impact of the enormous freedom. That is why since the reign of Soeharto to SBY was never opened, “said deputy chairman of commission I of the House of Representatives. (Arjuna Pademme)