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



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


West Papua visit lacked transparency says Solomons group




Downtown Jayapura – RNZ / Koroi Hawkins

There should have been more transparency around a government-led delegation’s visit to West Papua last month, a leader of Solomon Islands civil society says.

The Solomon Star reports Development Service Exchange (DSE) spokesperson Jennifer Wate made the comment while rejecting any involvement in the trip.

This is despite DSE chairperson, Inia Barry, being among several from civil society organisations who went along on the visit which was hosted by Indonesia.

Ms Wate said her organisation had found out about the trip the evening before the delegation’s departure for West Papua.

The DSE did not endorse Mr Barry or any of the other civil society representatives who took part in the West Papua visit, she said

Ms Wate maintained her organisation was not aware of any details of the trip or its terms of reference and she called on the Solomon Islands government in the future to formally approach the DSE on matters that required civil sector representation.

Ms Wate also admonished the government for not informing civil society groups in West Papua ahead of their trip. (*)


Source: Radio NZ

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Journalist turns tales of undercover Papuan reporting into love novel





Aprila Wayar poses with her latest novel Sentuh Papua which chronicles a Dutch journalist’s undercover reporting of Papua and is based on actual events – Bambang Muryanto/Jakarta Post

By Bambang Muryanto

A Dutch freelance journalist, Rohan (a pen name), had been interested in the political turmoil in Papua for years. In 2015, his application for a journalistic visa was denied. The 32-year-old then decided to embark on an undercover reporting assignment in the country’s easternmost province.

For 153 days, he observed the way local people lived, met with leaders of the pro-independence Free Papua Movement (OPM) in the jungle, enjoyed the beauty of Papua’s nature and met Aprila Russiana Amelia Wayar, or Emil, a local journalist who later became his girlfriend.

It was Emil who wrote about Rohan’s adventures in Papua and their love story in the novel Sentuh Papua, 1500 Miles, 153 Hari, Satu Cinta (Touch Papua, 1500 Miles, 153 Days, One Love).

In the novel, Rohan’s character said foreign media agencies in Jakarta refused to publish his report on Papua, worrying that the government would revoke the visas of their Jakarta correspondents.

Emil recently launched her 374-page novel in a discussion forum organised by the Alliance of Independent Journalists’ (AJI) Yogyakarta chapter and the Yogyakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH).

Emil has been in Yogyakarta since early this year to publish the book. She chose Yogyakarta because she had spent time there as a student at Duta Wacana Christian University (UKDW).

The 38-year-old author said she initially intended to write a journalistic piece that was rich in data and interviews. She used the character of Rohan to describe the lack of press freedom in Papua, human rights violations in the province and challenges to OPM’s quest for self-determination.

‘Easier to understand’

“I then chose [to write a] novel to make it easier for Papuans and Indonesians to understand the [province’s] issues,” she said.

Through the book, Emil, who used to work for independent media platform Tabloid Jubi, was determined to represent the other side of Papua’s story vis-a-vis mainstream reporting on the province, which she deemed mostly biased.

She said many journalists covering cases of human rights abuses in Papua only interviewed security personnel and neglected the victims.

“Journalists writing about Papua have to cover both sides,” she said.

However, she realised both the challenge and risks that come with reporting Papua as a journalist, as she herself often received threats and harassment while doing her job.

In her book, the characters Rohan and Amelia, who is based on herself, are chased by a group of people armed with machetes.

According to Reporters Sans Frontier’s (RSF) latest World Press Freedom Index, Indonesia ranks 124th out of 180 countries – the same position as last year.

Open access promise

The Paris-based group highlighted the restriction of media access to Papua and West Papua as a factor that has kept Southeast Asia’s largest democracy at the bottom of the list.

The condition prevails despite President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s campaign promises to open access to Papua for foreign journalists.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian Press Council categorised Papua and West Papua as “medium/relatively free” in its 2017 press freedom index.

Yogyakarta-based lawyer Emmanuel Gobay said Emil’s book, despite being published as fiction, was a good reference for those who want to understand Papua from both the local and professional perspective.

“This novel reflects the state of press freedom in Papua,” he said.

The novel, which Emil wrote in eight months, is her third after Mawar Hitam Tanpa Akar (Black Rose Without Its Stem) and Dua Perempuan (Two Women), both of which told stories about social issues in Papua.

Emil was the first indigenous Papuan novelist invited to the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (UWRF) in Bali in 2012. She plans to write a fourth book in the Netherlands, where she is currently undergoing medical treatment for a heart condition. (*)

Bambang Muryanto is a Jakarta Post journalist and an Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) advocate.



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Depapre road severely damaged after the president’s visit





Road to the capital of Depapre Sub-district – Jubi / Engel Wally

Sentani, Jubi – People in Depapre Sub-district are complaining about road infrastructure in their sub-districts that have still in severely damaged condition.

Instead of the Jayapura District Government should be responsible for the repair; however, it is the responsibility of the Papua Provincial Government.

The Provincial Highway Agency has started the repair, but the works stopped before it completed.

The current Jayapura Regent Mathius Awoitauw said the local government unceasingly communicate and coordinate with the provincial government to be more aware of the condition of road infrastructure in his territory.

“The local government hopes that the problem of road infrastructure would be completely resolved by the provincial government because we have no authority over this,” said the regent at Sentani on Friday (4/5/2018).

He said the repair stopped because some culprits only consider their interests than the community. He figured the current job was on the halfway stage of completion, but somehow it suspended. “We hope the provincial government can fully complete the work of Depapre road this year,” he hoped.

Meanwhile Depapre Sub-district Chief said the impact of damaged roads results in frequent accidents in Depapre. “When the president was here last time, the road was very smooth, but then it has been badly damaged until now,” he said. (*)

Reporter: Engel Wally

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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