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Journalist turns tales of undercover Papuan reporting into love novel

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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.

 

Source: asiapacificreport.nz

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Authority close the Illegal mine site in Korowai

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A helicopter for transporting goods and miners sealed by Papua Police. – Jubi / IST

Jayapura, Jubi – Acting Papua Governor Soedarmo confirmed that as of 10 August 2018, the illegal mine sites that had been operating in Korowai area had closed.

This closure was carried out by the acting governor himself who came to the mine sites accompanied by Papua Police Chief the Inspector General Boya Rafly and Cenderawasih Military Commander Major General George E. Supit on Friday morning (08/10/2018).

“That’s right,” he replied when being asked for confirmation about the closure of the illegal mine sites in Korowai on Friday afternoon. Further, he said Papua Police also sealed the helicopters which had been used to transport the miners and goods.

The closure of this illegal mine got an appreciation from a member of the Papuan House of Representatives John Gobay. He said this is a good step, but he reminded of the possibility of such mine sites in Korowai or Deguwo to re-operate. (*)

 

Reporter: Alexander Loen

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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Women protest the electricity cut off

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Indigenous women traders who barred the road in front of the market due to the electricity cut off by PLN. – Jubi / IST

Jayapura, Jubi – Dozens of indigenous women who are selling local products at the traditional market ‘Pasar Mama-Mama Papua’ blocked the road in front of the market on Friday afternoon (8/10/2018) to protest the National Electricity Company (PLN) for cutting off the electricity at the market for several hours due to late payment for the last four months amounted to Rp 60 million.

The coordinator for the Solidarity for indigenous Papuan traders (Solpap) Franky Warer said it just happened spontaneously because of their disappointment. “The electricity was cut off at around 11.00 Papua time when I was still at home, then someone called me. I then went to the market and called the mayor,” Warer told Jubi by phone on Friday evening (08/10/18).

After that, he said, the Municipal Government agreed to contact the PLN and the electricity in the market turned normal at around 18:00 Papua time.

Meanwhile, the Papuan legislator John NR Gobai commented that relevant parties should pay attention to this matter for not outsizing the traders. “This market is managed under the Trade and Industry Office of Jayapura Municipal Government. So the agency needs to find a solution immediately,” he said. (*)

 

Reporter: Arjuna Pademme

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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Police come to ULMWP Region Animha during regional meeting

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Act of 1969 – WANI Tabloid

Jayapura, Jubi – The local police came to the regional meeting of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) Region Animha which attended by regional leaders and delegates that held in their office in Merauke on Saturday (7/29/2018).

According to Deputy Chairperson of the ULMWP Region Animha, Ms Pangkrasia Yeem in a statement received by Jubi on Friday (08/03/2018), Merauke Police leading by the Head of Regional Police Intelligence Budi Santoso had entered the ULMWP Office without permission when the meeting had just finished.

“They asked what the meeting was about,” told Yeem. Then she explained to the police that it was the first meeting after the ULMWP Region Animha declared on 14 July 2018. “And the ULMWP has been sitting together with Indonesia in the Melanesian Spearhead Group,” she said.

After the visit, the ULMWP Region Animha continued their discussion on Thursday (08/02/2018) and read a statement rejecting the results of the 1969 Act of Free Choice. The event was held in the ULMWP Region Animha office and run smoothly.

In her statement, the Deputy Chairperson of the ULMWP Region Animha Pangkrasia Yeem said that the Act of Free Choice occurred 49 years ago in Papua from 14 July to 20 August 1969 was not valid because of not in accordance the international mechanisms.

“Its implementation was also full of intimidation, terror and manipulation. In practice, Indonesia mobilized the troops on a large scale to Papua to overcome the Free Papua movement,” she said. (*)

Reporter: Zely Ariane

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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