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Indonesian Press Council fails to classified Press Freedom in West Papua as a ‘domestic affair’

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Students and activists hold a protest during WPFD 2017 in Jakarta – Supplied

By Veronica Koman

THE need for press freedom in West Papua has never been more urgent: surging numbers at demonstrations over the past year have been met with thousands of unlawful arrests of peaceful protesters. During this crisis, Jakarta has acted to censor West Papua media outlets, intimidate local journalists, and bar foreign reporters from the region.

The irony of Indonesia hosting World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) 2017 has been noted by the Guardian and other media. As if on cue, just as the press freedom event began in Jakarta on 1 May a West Papuan journalist, Yance Wenda, was arrested and beaten by police while covering unlawful mass arrests at a discussion and prayer event in Jayapura.

There have been at least 65 cases of violence against local West Papuan journalists in the last five years, yet no perpetrators have ever been brought to justice. Indigenous West Papuan journalists face discrimination from officials when reporting, and are stigmatised as being part of the pro-independence movement. A couple of recent examples: on 8 October 2015, Abeth You of Tabloid Jubi was covering a demonstration in Jayapura when police bundled him into a truck then forced him to delete his footage at gunpoint. Abdel Gamel Naser of the Cenderawasih Post and Julian Howay of Suara Papua were also prevented from taking pictures of the same demonstration. On 1 May 2016, Ardi Bayage of Suara Papua was arrested while covering mass arrests in Jayapura. Police took his mobile phone and press ID, threw them to the ground and stamped on them until they were destroyed. He was forced to take off his shirt, ordered to join 2,108 other arrestees in the police headquarters field and interrogated, during which time he was struck several times in the face.

Bribery and intimidation of journalists and their editors is also employed to ensure reports of human rights abuses are spiked before publication. The Sorong chief of police has freely admitted that he summoned local journalists to his office to demand they not report the arrests of 106 activists in the city by his officers on 19 November 2016.

West Papua has been off limits for foreign journalists since Indonesia took over control following a widely-criticised sham referendum in 1969. In recognition of international criticism, during his first year in office President Joko Widodo pledged that foreign journalists would be allowed to travel and report freely in West Papua. Yet just a few months later, Cyril Payen of France 24 was declared persona non grata and banned from returning to report in Indonesia after his ‘Forgotten War of the Papuas’ documentary broadcast on 18 October 2015. The French ambassador was also summoned over the broadcast to the Indonesian foreign ministry. Two years later, press freedom remains severely curtailed. Foreign journalists have faced long bureaucracy, obstruction, jail or deportation and their local fixers have received threats of violence when trying to document violations by Indonesian security forces.

Censorship is also in place: an officially verified online publication, Suara Papua (the Voice of Papua) was blocked last November, and nine other websites relating to West Papua were blocked last month. This blackout of information both within and about West Papua stifles freedom of expression and allows state violence to flourish with impunity.

Concerned that this crisis would not be addressed during WPFD 2017, a coalition of Indonesian journalist and rights groups arranged an unofficial side event for the second day of the program, to raise awareness on the lack of press freedom in West Papua. As the side event began, over a dozen state intelligence officers arrived at Jakarta’s Century Park Hotel to order the event committee to halt the public discussion. When committee members refused to do so, police showed an objection letter signed by Yosep ‘Stanley’ Adi Prasetyo, head of Indonesia’s Press Council. The event went on regardless, but over the following days police continued their harassment by phoning and visiting committee member’s offices.

That the Indonesian Press Council chose to sidestep discussion of press freedom in West Papua at WPFD is especially disappointing, and shows its leader fails to understand that human rights and press freedom are guaranteed through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Stanley was quoted by the Jakarta Post as defending his move, dismissing the issue as a ‘domestic affair’. In fact, the annual WPFD event was established by the UN General Assembly in 1993 as a reminder to all member states to uphold press freedom. It celebrates and evaluates the implementation of fundamental principles of press freedom all over the world. This year, the event discussed specific infringements of press freedom in Turkey, Russia, China, Eritrea and elsewhere. Why should infringements in West Papua be classified as a ‘domestic affair’ whereas press freedom in other countries was freely examined in the course of WPFD 2017?

The Indonesian Press Council is an independent body given its mandate by Indonesia’s Law on the Press. It is not stipulated anywhere that the council must echo government policy. The Council’s ‘domestic affair’ argument, as pathetic as it is, should have been delivered by the Minister of Foreign Affairs or the president’s office. In this case, the head of press council has failed to uphold its mandate as an independent body in ensuring press freedom.

As the WPFD event closed on its third day, at least thirty West Papuans were unlawfully arrested in Timika, where the foreign-owned Freeport McMoran mine continues to escape direct scrutiny from international journalists for its environmental and human rights abuses. Shortly after, the Press Council chief joined a trip to cap off the WPFD event by visiting an illusion of paradise in the coral reefs of Raja Ampat, West Papua. But West Papua is far from a paradise for journalists, and by consciously shutting out this reality, this year’s WPFD has failed in its mission to advance the ‘media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies’. (*)

The author is a human rights lawyer focusing on West Papua, refugee, gender and sexual orientation issues. She is a co-founder of ‘Papua itu Kita’ and Civil Liberty Defenders

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Noken system in Papua’s elections is still debated

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Illustration of Noken system mostly used in the highland region of Papua’s election – Jubi

Jayapura, Jubi – The Constitutional Court (MK) has acknowledged and endorsed the Noken System in the elections in accordance with the Decree of the Constitutional Court Number: 47-48 / PHPU.A-VI / 2009 and the article 18B paragraph (2) of the 1945 Constitution.

However, this system is still considered to cause some conflicts among local communities because it forces many candidates to think and work hard to get sympathy from people living in such areas applied to this system.
Although the Papua General Election Commission (KPU) has issued the technical guidelines in 2013 regulating the use of noken instead of the ballot box in the election, Metusalak Ifandi, the Chairman of Papua Election Supervisory Body (Bawaslu), admits the noken system is still a potential source of conflicts in the local election in Papua.
“The implementation in the field is totally different from the technical guidelines. This should be addressed by KPU. Of course, there needs a coordination between KPU and Bawaslu regarding the technical implementation including the regulations because we only refer to their guidelines,” he answered Jubi on Tuesday (9/18/2018) in Jayapura.
Multi-interpretation and the need of review
The noken system is considered valid if the noken is hung on the wood located in the polling station. Voters must come to the location and should not be represented by others to put the ballot into the noken. After the voting, the ballots must be counted on location but still need to be punched (to authorize), not like the voting process in other regions where the noken system is not applied, voters punched the ballot at the same time they put it into the ballot box. That’s why, according to Papua Bawaslu, the noken system often leads to misinterpretation.
“According to the Constitutional Court, the use of the noken system to substitute the ballot box is to respect the tradition of the local community,” said Metusalak.
Meanwhile, Theodorus Kossay, the Chairman of KPU Papua, said KPU Papua considers three aspects towards the application of the noken system, namely reviewing this system with academics, establishing the standard operating procedures and stimulating the use of this system.
“These three aspects were carried out to give weight to the implementation of the noken system and provide education to the people living in 14 districts that use the noken system,” he said. (*)
Reporter: Roy Ratumakin
Editor : Pipiet Maizier

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ULMWP plans peaceful movements in seven indigenous territories

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United Liberation Movement for West Papua Action Committee (ULMWP) team – Jubi / Hengky Yeimo

Jayapura, Jubi – ULMWP going to hold peaceful demonstrations in seven indigenous territories of West Papua on 24 – 28 September 2018.

Ice Murib, the spokesperson of action committee for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), stated in a press conference held in the Papuan Customary Council, Expo Waena on Wednesday (08/19/2018).

The central theme is to give full support to Vanuatu and other Pacific countries to address the issue of West Papua to the UN General Assembly 2019.

“We will conduct a peaceful movement in indigenous territories of Mamta and Animha on 24 September 2018 centred in Hollandia (Jayapura), whereas the same activities in other regions will be on the following dates,” said Murib.

Murib further said the delegations of ULMWP and Vanuatu are going to attend the 73rd UN General Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland. So far, Vanuatu has made a resolution enforcing the rights of self-determination for West Papua to be submitted at the hearing.

“They will also mobilise support from other countries to promote self-determination for West Papua,” continued Murib.

For this reason, he appealed to all people including students, civil servants and those who are care of independence to participate in the movement. “You can do whatever you want to celebrate it. Pray, do orations, give speeches and so on.”

In Jayapura, the rally will start from different points namely Expo, Lingkaran Abe and Dok V and then the mass will gather at Perumnas 3 Waena. (*)

Reporter: Hengky Yeimo

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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Papua Governor: No more conflicts in Puncak Jaya

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Illustration of Mulia City, Puncak Jaya Regency. – Jubi / Doc

Jayapura, Jubi – Papua Governor Lukas Enembe said Puncak Jaya District there should not be a stigma for Puncak Jaya District as a conflict area because it is not a killing field. In contrary, this area is safe and peaceful.

“I governed this region once, so I know what people want. For that reason, I ask the local government officials to be able to take care of the community so to avoid more conflicts,” told Enembe to reporters on Thursday (09/13/2018) at the Office of the Papuan People’s Assembly (MRP).

Furthermore, the governor said to avoid conflicts between different tribes and groups; the government officials should not also act to represent their personal or group interests.

Separately, Papua Police Deputy Chief the Brigadier General Yakoubus Marjuki said that the police always try to use a subtle approach to solve conflicts in Papua.

“This is our commitment because we want every region in Papua to always be safe and peaceful including in Puncak Jaya.” (*)

 


Reporter: Roy Ratumakin

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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