Monday, August 18, 2014

What improvement in West Papua?

What improvement in West Papua?

Crackdown on civil society groups and intimidation of journalists

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Article 19

Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. Article 20 (1) The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

We continue to hear  that there is an improvement in the situation in West Papua. That Indonesia is now a democracy and human rights abuses are something that occurred in the past.  Where is the improvement in West Papua? 

The security forces continue to crack down on peaceful demonstrators and intimidate journalists covering rallies in West Papua. On the 15 August members of the Student Movement, Youth and People of Papua (Gempar) or Uproar held a peaceful rally at Cenderawasih University Campus (Uncen), Jayapura in order to denounce the New York Agreement. A number of activists were arrested.  The Jayapura police chief, Superintendent Alfred Papare said the arrests were made because Uproar is an illegal organisation and they did not have a permit to hold the rally. A spokesperson for Uproar said that permission to hold the rally was presented to the Papua Police at the beginning of August.
                       Police arrest student activists in uproar. Photo: 15/8 in MJ

Intimidation of journalists.
The media (including alternative media information) is an important part of democracy and threats against the media should always be of concern. In West Papua the local media are on the ground and can be first with reports of violence and intimidation of civil society, of military attacks and with reports of the crackdown on peaceful demonstrations.

Journalists covering the rally on the 15th were also intimidated by the police. One reporter from Jubi, was grabbed by the police while taking photographs of the rally. Reporters from other media including Suara Papua, Majalah Selangkah and Metro Online were also intimidated. The police tried to stop photos being taking, asking that images be deleted. The Chairman of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Jayapura City, Victor Mambor criticized the police action to intimidate journalists while covering demonstrations, noting that   police should be able to distinguish between journalists and protesters. 

Peaceful rallies to protest the New York Agreement were also held in Yogyakarta, Solo and Semarang although heavily monitored by the security forces. 

                                       AMP rally Photo 15/8/14

Journalists from overseas are also intimidated (with some exceptions) in West Papua. 
Two French journalists were arrested on the 7 August by the police. Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat were working for Franco-German television channel Arte when they were detained. Police said Mr Dandois was arrested on Thursday at a hotel in the city of Wamena with three separatists from the Free Papua Movement (OPM). According to the provincial police spokesperson, Sulityo Pudjo Hartono, the authorities were concerned that the French nationals were part of a plan to create insecurity and instability in Papua. Overseas journalists are usually deported and the continuing detention of the two journalists is taking media intimidation in West Papua to a new level.

The Papua police spokesman also said the two documentary filmmakers could face up to five years in prison and a 500 million rupiah ($42,000) fine. Michael Bachelard reported in the SMH (14 August) that the detention of two French journalists had taken a dangerous turn with local police suggesting the pair were present at an exchange of ammunition by a separatist group and should be charged with subversion. 

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on the Indonesian authorities to release Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat immediately. "These arrests serve as a flagrant reminder that the Indonesian government continues to restrict journalists from reporting on sensitive areas of the country," said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz. "Indonesian authorities should release Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat immediately."  Reporters Without Borders has also raised concerns and regards their continuing detention as illegal. Various civil society organisations both inside West Papua and overseas have called for the release of the journalists. 

In the past months there has been a crackdown by the security forces on civil society groups in West Papua and in particular on the West Papua National Committee (KNPB). Below are just a few of the incidents that occurred in the territory since the beginning of July. If the security forces continue to crackdown on peaceful civil society groups it will only lead to an increase in already heightened tension in the region.

Leading up to the presidential election on the 9 July, civil society groups had called for a peaceful boycott of the election.  However, the security forces arrested many West Papuan activists simply because there were peacefully distributing literature calling for a boycott of the election as is their democratic right.

Six KNPB activists were arrested, beaten and taken to the Jayapura Police Station on the 3 July because they were distributing leaflets calling for a boycott and in Timika on the 4 July seven KNPB activists were also arrested and beaten for handing out leaflets. A woman was arrested in Kaimana on the 5 of July for the same reason.

In Manokwari two members of KNPB, Robert Yelemaken and Oni Weya, who are students were arrested and beaten on the 8 August. The incident occurred after a number of KNPB members were painting on walls calling for a boycott of Indonesian Independence Day celebrations (17 August) in the city of Manokwari. Amnesty International has released an urgent action in relation to the incident. Amnesty believes the two students are prisoners of conscience and should be released immediately and unconditionally. They were arrested and remain in detention solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression.

The reason for of the intimidation of journalists in West Papua is to try to influence journalists not to cover rallies called by civil society groups and in particular KNPB rallies, as the gain attention internationally. Another indication of the deteriorating situation in West Papua is the increase in arrests in the territory.  "Papuans behind bars" (July update), reports that  there were at least 70 political arrests in July ,  "the highest recorded number so far this year. These arrests included the mass arrest of 25 people in Timika at a peaceful demonstration, including at least five women and four children aged one to two years. Most people arrested this month faced ill-treatment on arrest or in detention. Bilim Wenda, one of the 25 demonstrators in Timika, faced torture and cruel and degrading treatment in detention". and
"Many of the arrests related to the recent Presidential Elections on 9 July 2014. At least 36 political arrests were related to peaceful calls for an election boycott by Papuan activists, following peaceful demonstrations and distributing of flyers. The freedom to not participate in a democratic process, or to campaign for a boycott, is an undeniable element of democratic freedoms. The criminalisation of these actions in Papua has also been documented by Papuans Behind Bars in relation to elections in 2004 and 2009".

As well as the crackdown on peaceful rallies, a number of clashes between the security forces and armed groups in West Papua have been ongoing.
On the 16 July an armed group of about ten people were involved in an attack on a convoy of vehicles at Dagobak Village in the Kalome Sub-district of Puncak Jaya Regency. Two people were killed and one injured. The three men were drivers of lajuran, which is a delivery company that transports staple food from Wamena to Mulia, the capital of Puncak Jaya regency. The armed group also set four cars on fire. The Military District Commander, Lieutenant Infantry Luqman Arief confirmed the incident to JUBI, 
“It is believed that they were attacked by the armed group who usually operated in Puncak Jaya and surrounding areas.

On the 28 July a group of armed men, alleged to be OPM, shot at eight police officers in a village in Lanny Jaya, resulting in two officers been killed and six injured. Papua Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Pudjo Sulistyo said the officers were involved in a community-counseling program at Indawa village when the armed group attacked them. The village of Indawa is around 10 kilometers from Pirime and 45 km from Tiom, the municipal town of the regency of Lanny Jaya. Also on the 28th, three soldiers suffered gunshot wounds following an attack on a military outpost in the Tingginambut area of Papua’s Puncak Jaya district. The men were reportedly patrolling near the post when a group of armed men attacked the post, leading to an exchange of fire that eventually forced the attackers back into a nearby forest.

On the 1 August five OPM members were killed and two Indonesian soldiers injured in a firefight in Pirime in the Lanny Jaya district. The clash occurred as the troops were on the way to a military post. The five OPM members were believed to be involved in the ambush of the eight Indonesian police earlier in the week. The National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) has called for full investigation and prevention of more violence in Lanny Jaya District of Papua and use of excessive security approach. "Komnas Perempuan regrets the recurrence of armed violence between armed civilian groups and security personnel, which has caused casualties, wounded and displaced persons in Lanny Jaya district," the National Commission said in a press statement. 

Tempo also reported that the Free Papua Organization (OPM) ambushed a convoy of Police Mobile Brigade on the 4 August, injuring one police member. "We opened fire. I request the government to pull back the troops from Papua. Papua wants freedom," said Purom Okiman Wenda, OPM Commander of Lanny Jaya.

The situation in West Papua is not improving and will continue to deteriorate if governments do not start urging the Indonesian Government to dialogue with genuine representatives of the West Papuan people.

                         One of the posters on display mass action. Photo: Gabriel P. Hegemur  (15/8 in MJ)   

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