Sunday, October 5, 2014

1) Q&A: Australia’s reaction to arrest of French journalists in West Papua

1) Q&A: Australia’s reaction to arrest of French journalists in West Papua
2) Coalition Provide Surprise Support On West Papua Motion

3) Semen Tonasa to build Rp  3t plant in Papua

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6 October 2014, 12.58pm AEDT



The Conversation

1) Q&A: Australia’s reaction to arrest of French journalists in West Papua

Lecturer in Asian Studies at Australian National University

DISCLOSURE STATEMENT

Ross Tapsell does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
The Australian government, by supporting a motion passed by the Senate, expressed concern over restrictions to press freedom in West Papua. AAP Image/Sue Wellwood
The Australian Senate passed a motion last week, with explicit support from the Foreign Minister’s office, expressing concern over the imprisonment of two French journalists for reporting in Indonesia’s restive province using tourist visas.
The motion notes that press freedom in West Papua, where a 50-year separatist movement exists, is “tightly restricted”. The Senate called for the Australian government to request Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat’s release.
The following is an interview with Ross Tapsell.

How will Australia’s comment about press freedom in West Papua affect Australia-Indonesia relations?

Unfortunately I doubt the comment will mean much at a time like this. Just last week we saw numerous Australian media practitioners dismayed that Parliament passed tougher national security laws, which will have implications for journalists and whistle-blowers.
One case that has been cited that would have been affected by these new laws is the reporting of Australian government tapping of the Indonesian president and his wife’s phone. Earlier this year, Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called on the Australian government to stop suppressing details of a court case which involved him. Also, as others have already pointed out, Australia doesn’t allow journalists into Manus Island detention centre to talk to asylum seekers.
So while it is great that Australia stands up for greater access for foreign journalists in West Papua, we are hardly a beacon of light for media freedom at the moment. The Australian government has to practise what it preaches, otherwise it risks being seen as hypocritical.

What is the state of press freedom in West Papua for foreign journalists and how extraordinary is the case of Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat?

West Papua is the only region in Indonesia where journalists need a special permit and clearance from officials in Jakarta.
The Indonesian government has a long history of restricting foreign press as well as other researchers and aid workers from accessing the region since it took the territory in 1963. For example, in June 1969, the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club lodged a protest with the Ministry of Information on the restriction on travel and entry of foreign press into West Papua, claiming the measures would have grave consequences for Indonesia’s image abroad and lend substance to doubts about the government’s approach to the region. The current situation for foreign media is, sadly, not new.
Some selected foreign journalists have received permission from Jakarta to report from West Papua, and they are almost always followed by intelligence agencies in the region. By my rough count, around ten Australian journalists have received permission to travel to the region since 2006.
Today, it is possible to go to many areas of the Papua provinces as a tourist. As such, many foreign journalists have entered on a tourist visa and reported from the region, as Dandois and Bourrat allegedly did. If caught and found to be there on a wrong visa, they are usually evicted from the region or sent home to their country. So it is extraordinary that these French journalists have been in jail for this amount of time.
This is also very poor public relations management of the situation by the Indonesian government. The longer the journalists are in jail the more likely international attention will be drawn to this story and Indonesia’s image will continue to be tarnished.

How should the new Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, deal with this case?

The French journalists should be released from jail in Papua and sent home. This would be consistent with previous actions taken by the Indonesian government.
Joko Widodo has said that once he is president he will consult widely with Papuans who are looking to improve the situation in their region. Obviously all advocates of media freedom (including myself) would like to see more openness in the region, including for both foreign and local media.
It is important to remember that many local Papuan journalists face threats and intimidation from security forces on a regular basis simply for doing their job. It is difficult for them to report on issues involving local politicians, human rights and the role of security forces in the region. There are numerous stories that simply can’t be published in the local press. So let’s not forget local journalists, and more broadly the restrictions on freedom of expression in the Papua provinces.
Certainly, ending the visa restrictions for foreign journalists is a good place for Widodo to start.
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2 Oct 2014

2) Coalition Provide Surprise Support On West Papua Motion

By Amy McQuire
A motion calling for Indonesia to lift a press ban in West Papua has been passed by the Senate as two French journalists remain imprisoned without charge. Amy McQuire reports.
The Abbott government has backed a motion calling on Indonesia to dismantle its media ban in West Papua, home to widespread allegations of human rights abuses, but there is doubt this will signal any further change to Australia’s policy.
It is notoriously difficult for foreign journalists to gain access to the province, which has been under Indonesian control since the late 60s. Many foreign reporters enter the country on tourist visas, running the risk of deportation or jail.
The media ban and the reported intimidation of local journalists and sources has meant recurring allegations of human rights violations against the ethnically Melanesian Indigenous population are largely left off the international radar.
Earlier this year, two French journalists were arrested whilst filming a documentary, allegedly in the company of armed separatists.
The journalists – Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat from the French Arte channel – have been jailed without charge since August 6. There are concerns they will be charged with espionage, but formal charges will not be laid until they are brought before court.
A local fixer was arrested with the two, and there are concerns over the safety of local people who came into contact with them.
Mr Dandois and Ms Bourrat’s incarceration has been condemned by West Papuan activists, and the subject of protests around the world, but their case has failed to make headlines like that of Australian journalist Peter Greste, who was sentenced to seven years jail in Egypt.
Yesterday the Senate passed a motion proposed by Greens Senator Richard Di Natale calling on the Australian government to request the release of Ms Bourrat and Mr Dandois.
The motion passed following technical amendments from foreign minister Julie Bishop’s office.
“This motion goes to two specific issues,” Senator Di Natale told the upper house.
“One is the issue of journalism and journalism right around the world being under attack. We have recently seen the issue of the Australian journalist Peter Greste incarcerated in Egypt after a show trial but we cannot advocate for people like Peter Greste and stay silent on the issue of the arbitrary detention of journalists in West Papua like the two French journalists who were doing nothing wrong other than reporting the truth.”
Senator Di Natale told New Matilda it was a “huge shock” that the government had decided to back the motion. It had first gone to the Prime Minister’s office where there seemed to be “very active consideration of it”.
Senator Di Natale said there were a few technical amendments from Foreign Affairs minister Julie Bishop’s office.
“I had no expectation this government would support it so it was a big surprise…. This is the first time in my experience that any motion on the topic of West Papua has passed. And what makes it more interesting is that the motion calls on the Australian government to raise the issue with Indonesia,” Senator Di Natale told New Matilda.
“So effectively it’s supporting a motion calling on itself to discuss this issue either currently or is planning to engage in discussions with the new President.”
The Gillard government’s foreign affairs minister Bob Carr made several strong statements confirming Australia’s support of Indonesian sovereignty over the region whilst in government. In August Ms Bishop signed a significant agreement with Jakarta following a diplomatic fallout over revelations Australia had spied on the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
The Sydney Morning Herald today reported the motion could “risk insulting Indonesia again”.
But while President Yudhoyono leaves office this year with a bad human rights record in the province – in fact, his visit to the province earlier this year coincided with the killing of West Papuan independence leader Martinus Yohame, whose body was found floating at sea in a sack near Sarong – the President Elect Joko Widodo has raised hope of change in West Papua.
Mr Widodo has made public statements saying he would open up the region to foreign media and he visited the province during his election campaign – one of the first presidential candidates to do so.
Senator Di Natale said it was hard to speculate the government’s rationale in supporting the motion and whether it represented a significant change in its policy towards the region.
“Hopefully this motion represents a very significant change in attitude towards West Papua and if it does I welcome it,” he told New Matilda.
But Nick Chesterfield, editor of West Papua Media, says while he was “happily surprised”, he was doubtful it would represent any change.
“It’s strange to see the government adopting something resembling a backbone but at the same time, while I am surprised there’s also a part of me that realises this is a statement that can’t really be resisted by anyone,” Mr Chesterfield told New Matilda.
“Freedom of the Press is a fundamental democratic principle to be observed. I’m gladdened by the motion but it’s a motherhood statement. It’s a transitional statement so it could be a good first step but I wouldn’t expect the government to take it further.”
Mr Chesterfield says Mr Widodo’s promise to remove the media ban would be difficult in the province because of the weight of the military.
“The President Elect has definitely indicated willingness to give some attention to the possibility of opening up Papua, but the reality on the ground is the police and the military run the show and by arresting journalists and their sources and going after West Papua media personnel, they are showing they don’t want the status quo to change.
“It’s doubtful the Indonesian government in Jakarta can actually change things without taking on the military and the police.”
“And it’s the same with the government in Australia. Unless they recognise the fact it’s the Indonesians and police who are behind the violations of press freedom and apply some sort of sanction, then it won’t change.”
He says the Australian government has to recognise the hypocrisy in advocating for press freedom in one region, whilst ignoring other areas.
“I think certainly people have been alerted to the hypocrisy going on here. The Australian government has to observe some sort of consistency in that – that’s a positive sign. But the issues are identical. You can’t condemn a military regime in Egypt arresting journalists and not another. These principles are valid right across the world.”

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3) Semen Tonasa to build Rp  3t plant in Papua
Wahyoe Boediwardhana, The Jakarta Post, PANGKEP, SOUTH SULAWESI | Business | Mon, October 06 2014, 10:35 AM

Cement manufacturer PT Semen Tonasa, a subsidiary of state-run publicly listed cement giant PT Semen Indonesia, is planning to build its first factory in West Papua, as the company seeks to meet increasing demand in the region and at the same time cut distribution costs to the nation’s eastern areas.

Semen Tonasa president director Andi Unggul Attas said the company would be investing Rp 3 trillion (US$246.3 million) in the construction of the plant, named “Unit VI”, as well as its private seaport to support distribution, which will be located in Sorong, West Papua.

Currently, the company’s fifth plant in Pangkep, South Sulawesi, and its sister company, PT Semen Gresik’s plant in Gresik, East Java, are helping their parent company to supply cement to the Papua and West Papuan markets.

Demand for cement has increased by 6 percent each year in the eastern part of the country, especially in Papua and West Papua, where distributors charge Rp 1.6 million for each sack of cement, according to Andi.

In order to meet the provinces’ demand, the company was running four of its five plants at production capacity of 5.98 million tons per year, with 6.7 million tons its target for the end of this year, he added.

“We expect to reach the target, as we had already produced 4.2 million tons of cement by the end of August,” Andi said.

Andi explained that distribution by air was the cause of cement being so expensive in Indonesia easternmost provinces, adding that demand in the region was rarely met, even though the company had established 10 packing plants in several cities in the eastern half of the country.

“The high price of cement [in eastern Indonesia] is because all cement must be delivered by air. Even if cement could be delivered by sea, vessels are
reluctant to ship cement. This high distribution cost really affects [the company’s finances],” he added.

Therefore, the private seaport, which is to be developed together with Semen Tonasa’s first ever
Papua plant, is also expected to tackle distribution costs and issues in supplying the eastern part of the country.

As demand increased, he said, the company planned to raise its current 45 percent market share in eastern Indonesia to 50 percent, which could increase its revenue to Rp 5.3 trillion by the end of the year, up from Rp 4.8 trillion in 2013.

Andi said the company aimed to reap Rp 1.6 trillion in next year’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), an increase from the expected Rp 1.4 trillion by the end of this year, which represents a 75 percent increase from its earnings of Rp 800 billion in 2010.
  • Plant will be firm’sfirst in Papua
  • Private seaport alsoin the pipeline
  • Demand increasing in Papua, but costs are high due to distribution by air
Meanwhile, three Asian cement manufacturers – Thailand’s Siam Cement Group, China’s Anhui, and Vietnam’s Chinfon Cement Corporation – are planning to build cement factories in Indonesia.

The Siam Cement Group is currently building a Rp 34 trillion plant, which will have a production capacity of 55 million tons of cement per year, while Anhui is preparing to build a 3-million ton capacity plant worth $500 million.

Chinfon is currently constructing a 4-million ton capacity plant worth $600 million on 500 hectares of land in Banten. Chinfon is the parent company of PT Cemindo Gemilang, which produces Merah Putih, a local cement brand.

Semen Tonasa’s new plant in Papua is also expected to strengthen the company’s grip in the region ahead of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 that will create a single market in Southeast Asia and thus increase competition in the region. (gad)
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