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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

Politics, Government & Security

DPRP and MRP urged Komnas HAM to investigate Nduga’s case

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Komnas HAM office in Jakarta – Supplied

Jayapura, Jubi – Yunus Wonda, the heads of the Papuan Representatives Council (DPR Papua) made the calls after security forces allegedly killed four civilians during an anti-insurgency operation last week that followed the slayings of 17 construction workers by separatist rebels.

“We ask the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) to conduct a thorough investigation. They must investigate not only this December incident, but also what happened last July,” Yunus Wonda, chairman of the council, told Jubi on Monday (10/12/2018).

DPR Papua will set up a special committee to conduct an inquiry into what happened, Yunus added.
But now, he said Nduga is still closed for any civilians, included member of DPR Papua.

Separately, Timotius Murib, chairman of the people’s assembly (MRP), said the MRP has formed a committee to investigate the Dec. 2 and 3 attacks by separatist rebels and also reports from church that mentioned 4 civilians dead during the evacuation.

“Because this MRP is a representative body for Papuan Indigenous People, we don’t see the Nduga case as a separate issue, but part of what has happened so far in Papua,” Timotius added.

Meanwhile on Monday, a local youth leader alleged that security forces shot dead four civilians on Dec. 3 and Dec. 5, including at least one clergyman, while troops were trying to retrieve bodies of the workers killed by TPNPB guerrillas in the Mbua, Yall and Yigi districts of Nduga.

“Two [were killed] in Mbua and two in Yigi. One [of those killed] in Mbua is my uncle. His name is Yulianus Tabuni,” Samuel Tabuni, a Papuan youth leader who once ran for office as the regent of Nduga, told Jubi.

Samuel stated his uncle was a member of the church assembly in Mbua, not involved in separatist movement.

He said relatives told him that government forces had pressured several pastors in the area to give them information about the rebels. (*)

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West Papua National Liberation Army: It’s an attack, not execution

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West Papua Liberation Army led by Egianus Kogoya – IST

Jayapura, Jubi – West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) finally spoke up regarding the murder accusation over them. They admitted being responsible for the shooting of people identified as the employees of PT. Istaka Karya that are building the Trans-Papua road.

“We are responsible for that. There was gunfire, and it’s an attack, not execution as stated by the Indonesian security forces,” the spokesperson of TPNPB Sebby Sambom told Jubi by phone on Wednesday (5/12/2018) denying the statement released by the Indonesian Army.
Earlier, the Chief of Cenderawasih Military Public Affairs Colonel Muhamad Aidi that the employees of PT. Istaka Karya executed in a location identified as Puncak Kabo.
Meanwhile, the West Papua National Liberation Army Commander for Region III Ndugama Egianus Kogoya continued Sambom, gave an order to his man Pemne Kogoya to attack several people in the Aworak River, Yigi River and Military Post at Mbua Sub-district.
Furthermore, he said the liberation army had been observing those who worked nearby both rivers. “They are soldiers, Indonesia Army Corps of Engineers, not civilians,” continued Sambon who’s in Papua New Guinea during the telephone.
In 2016, the Indonesian Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing contracted the Army Engineer as a working partner to build the Trans Papua Road. This agreement then followed by the decree issued by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono through Presidential Decree No.40 of 2013 which became a reference for military involvement in the construction of the Trans-Papua Road which earlier named Accelerating Development Road of Papua and West Papua (P4B).
The Army engineers deployed a total of 394 personnel that consist of Detachment-10 and Detachment-12 to work on the roads along Wamena-Habema and Habema-Mbua. Meanwhile, Battalion-18 build the roads along Mbua-Mugi and Mugi-Paro, and Battalion-14 build the roads along Paro-Kenyam and Kenyam-Mamugu. Each group has 107 personnel.
Under observation of Liberation Army
For approximately three months, the West Papua National Liberation Army has observed the workers of bridges construction at both Aworak and Yigi rivers and Mbua Military Post to examine their movement.
“Those who work along the Aworak River, Yigi River are purely soldiers of Engineers Detachment. The liberation army also knew that those who work on the trans-road and bridges construction project along the roads of Habema, Juguru, Kenyam until Batas Batu are military,” said Sambom.
Furthermore, according to him, even though these men dressed in civilian clothes or not wearing the uniform, they are still military. He also said that the liberation army is not a group of criminal as often called by the Indonesian Security Force. The West Papua National Liberation Army is fighting for the independence of West Papuan nation that aimed to liberate West Papua from Indonesia.
 “We have delivered a statement of war at the beginning of 2018,” he said.
As quoted by tirto.id, the National Police Chief General Tito Karnavian said 20 people confirmed victims of murder in Nduga Regency Papua that consist of 19 employees of PT. Istaka Karya and a soldier.
“The temporary news reported 20 [victims], said Karnavian during a press conference held at the Presidential Palace Complex, Jakarta on Wednesday (05/12/2018).
Indonesian Propaganda
In the meantime, Benny Wenda, the Chairman of ULMWP, separately told Jubi (5/12) that the news of the workers’ massacres in Nduga as part of Indonesian propaganda.
“That’s my assumption. It happened due to the broader support from the Indonesian people to Papuans and their nation that showed on the last 1 December. So, Indonesia attempted to show the Indonesian people that Papuans are brutal and able to do massacre. This incident cannot be confirmed yet, but the narrative of ‘massacre’ has widely spread through social media,” said Wenda.
According to him, throughout 2018, before the ‘massacre’ of the bridge construction workers in Yigi Sub-district and the attack on the military post of Battalion Infantry-755/Yalet, there were at least several accusations launched by the Indonesian Army, including the shooting incident at Kenyam Airport, Nduga on 25 June; confinement and sexual violation against dozens of teachers and paramedics from 3 – 17 October in Mapenduma Sub-district, Nduga Regency.  (*)
Reporter: Victor Mambor
Editor: Pipit Maizier

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15 confirmed dead in Nduga incident; locals’ complaint is a root, says the Church Leader

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Jayapura, Jubi – Papua Police confirmed fifteen dead in the shooting incident reportedly occurred in Puncak Kabo, Yal Sub-district, Nduga Regency.  Papua Police Public Affairs Chief Senior Commissionaire Ahmad Musthofa Kamal said 19 people shot in the incident that caused 15 deaths. Currently, the fifteen corpses have successfully concentrated in one location for evacuation on Thursday  (06/12/2018).

Trans Papua Road Section in Nduga Regency – Ministry of Public Works

“So, the total of shooting victims are 19 which 15 died, three injured while one survived and had evacuated on Tuesday (04/12/2018),” said Kamal in the press conference held at Jayawijaya Regional Police Headquarter on Wednesday night (05/12/2018).

Further, Kamal said the joint evacuation team discovered all victims in Yal Sub-district and continued searching for other victims who worked for PT. Istaka Karya that consist of a field manager and twenty-four workers.

Earlier, Military Public Affairs Chief Colonel Muhamad Aldi stated that a criminal group had executed the employees of PT. Istaka Karya in a location identified as Puncak Kabo.

It begins with the locals’ complaint
Separately, the Rev. Dr Benny Giay, the Chairperson of Papuan Kingmi Church Synod, said the incident that reportedly killed 24 workers of road construction in Nduga Regency triggered by a suspected military member who took a picture of the community worship on 1 December 2018.

“There’s worship attended by the community, local government and a man who’s suspected military member,” Giay forwarded a message from a resident to Jubi on Wednesday (05/12/2018).

“When residents saw him taking the pictures, they were scared. So, they asked the guy to remove his photos, but he denied,” added Giay.

He then left the scene and went to the military post, while people couldn’t make him delete his pictures. 

Meanwhile, the worship continued to 2 December 2018. The residents who came to the event asked him to remove the photos. Then, there was gunfire near the military post that caused more than ten casualties.

“This is a sequence,” he said.

Moreover, the Rev. Giay added that a polemic whether the dead victims are civilians or soldiers, it should refer to the policy of President Joko Widodo during his visit in Wamena in 2016.

“The point is that President Widodo has trusted the military to build the road following his visit to Wamena in 2016,” he said.

Soon after this agreement in January 2017, the West Papuan Liberation Army who’s has power over this region refused the road construction and gave a war threat.

Therefore, according to Giay, no wonder if the locals suspected the workers as the army. They reckon that ordinary people might not want to work in the region under the security threat. 

Separately, the Corporate Secretary of PT. Istaka Karya Yudi Kristanto confirmed that there were 28 workers joined in the bridges construction project in the Yigi River and Aworak River located in Nduga Regency Papua. He also ensured that there had never been any problems regarding their construction project there. 

Meanwhile, Papua Police stated that a survivor Bharatu Wahyu who’s a member of Mobile Brigade also evacuated to Wamena public hospital on Wednesday night (5/12). He got shot at the right arm, left shoulder and neck in the gunfire when the security forces attempted to find the victims. 

“The plan is to evacuate the bodies to Wamena because most of their families are living in Wamena. But it depends on the weather, if it’s bad we’ll send them all to Timika,” said Kamal. 

According to him, soon they’ve got the news of 31 dead; the joint security force immediately came to the scene for confirmation. Therefore, it was only the initial information. 

Meanwhile, Jayawijaya Police Chief Adjunct Senior Police Commissionaire Yan Pieter Reba appealed the victims’ families and those who want to find further information about the victims to come to Jayawijaya Police

Headquarter or Military District Command 1702/Jayawijaya.

“We provide a post in the police headquarter and military district command as well. So, if people want the information about their families, they can come directly to these posts for checking the truth,” he said. (*)

 

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