1) Indonesia’s ‘opening’ of Papua still needs to bridge the gap between reality and rhetoric
In September, Jakarta-based French journalist Marie Dhumieres decided to test whether Indonesia’s decades-long barring of foreign media from Papua had indeed ended. In May, the Indonesian government had announced it would lift restrictions for accredited foreign journalists wanting to report on the Papua and West Papua provinces.
For decades, foreign journalists had to submit to a long and complex bureaucratic process to gain access to the region, where widespread public dissatisfaction with Jakarta and a small but persistent pro-independence insurgency exist. Minders from the intelligence agency would shadow the rare journalists who received permission, controlling their movements and restricting access to sources on the ground.
Dhumieres got lucky. The government gave her a police permit to visit Papua.
On October 1, she flew from Jayapura, Papua’s provincial capital, to Pegunungan Bintang to interview independence activists. She did not experience any police harassment or surveillance during her trip.
Her travelling companion, a Papuan activist, was not as fortunate. A week after Dhumieres had returned, police detained him and two of his friends. The police interrogated them for ten hours. Dhumieres responded by tweeting her dismay to Indonesian President Joko Widodo:
Papua’s media freedom challenges
A recent Human Rights Watch report shows that the ordeal of Dhumieres’ activist companions was no accident. Although Indonesian authorities have granted foreign journalists access to Papua, often after months of jumping through “bureaucratic hoops”, government obstacles to foreign media access linger.
The bureaucratic impediments range from demands for details of itineraries and focus of news coverage to the need to supply multiple “recommendation letters” from prospective interviewees/sources in order to get official permission to visit Papua.
These obstacles reflect Indonesia’s deep ambivalence to allowing greater foreign media access to Papua. In some cases, officials and members of the police and the military are outright hostile to the idea.
That hostility is rooted in more than 25 years of government suspicion of foreign nationals' motivations in the troubled region.
But so far he has yet to put the change in writing via presidential instruction. Meanwhile, various government officials and military commanders have made a series of contradictory statements regarding foreign media access to Papua. This suggests Jokowi’s administration lacks a coherent, unified policy on lifting restrictions on foreign media access to Papua.
The challenges to media freedom in Papua are compounded by obstacles faced by Indonesian journalists – particularly ethnic Papuan reporters. Local journalists who report on sensitive political topics and human rights abuses are often subject to harassment, intimidation and violence by officials, members of the public and pro-independence forces.
No research allowed
In addition to media freedom challenges, the Indonesian government effectively blocks access to Papua by foreign academic researchers.
The government has often monitored, harassed and deported foreign academics who in recent years have attempted to do research in Papua. In at least two cases documented by Human Rights Watch, the government has imposed visa bans on Australian academics for their contact in Australia with Papuan independence groups.
I have been working [on Papua] since 1998, negotiating access in a legal situation where all basic science is viewed as being an inherently suspicious activity. In effect, almost all official applications to conduct research [there] are rejected by Jakarta.
Damien Kingsbury, a professor at Deakin University in Australia, also came under surveillance by security forces in Papua during a research trip to the region in 2003. He said:
When you check into the hotel [in Papua], the guest list is checked [by Indonesian security forces], as it was in Aceh. You are monitored and you have to be very careful.
In 2003, Indonesia carried out a military operation in Aceh to crack down on the separatist movement.
Scott Burchill, also from Deakin University, has never visited Papua nor applied for an official Papua access permit. But the Indonesian government placed him on a visa blacklist. In 2006, Burchill had given public talks to Papuan independence groups.
The experiences of both foreign journalists and academics indicate that the Indonesian government’s sensitivity to Papua access is deeply ingrained and that parts of the government are strongly resisting change.
To genuinely open Papua to foreign media, Jokowi must bridge the gap between rhetoric and reality. He should follow through on his commitment by issuing a presidential directive that specifies the obligations of government ministries and security forces to ensure unobstructed foreign media access to Papua.
The government should extend this commitment to unimpeded Papua access to foreign researchers. This will provide a much-needed legal foundation for foreign media and academics to assert their right to travel there and to resist efforts to deny that right.
Phelim Kine co-wrote this article with Andreas Harsono, senior researcher on Indonesia at Human Rights Watch.
2) CREATION OF OF NEW REGENCIES SPARK BOUNDARY DISPUTES
Jayapura, Jubi – Territorial boundary disputes between regencies in Papua were caused by various things, one of them due to the expansion or establishment of new autonomous regions.
Member of commission I of Papua Legislative Council (DPRP) on Governance, Politics and Human Rights, Tan Wie Long said, the euphoria of the expansion without regard to laws and regulations, and clear administrative processes, sometimes causing boundary disputes in the future.
“Sometimes the euphoria of the expansion ignores other things that can affect the future. The formation of a new regency proposal should have regent’s recommendation and be proved by the customary, DPRP. If all that have been fulfilled then the process will run well as expected, “said Tan on Tuesday (11/10/2015).
According to him, during this time many teams oversimplified. For example there is boundary dispute between Diyai and Dogiyai regencies. Two of the area division of the Nabire regency and until now, both government never met an agreement.The root causes of the dispute because there is no coordination with Nabire regency.
“Our concern is when this problem is not settled boundary that will give an impact on the local economy, and it could happen friction between people,” he said.
Member of Commission I of the DPRP, Laurens Kadepa said, local governments should be able to solve the boundary issue.
“Do not let the interests of certain parties causing the disputes between local governments and indigenous peoples,” said Kadepa. (Arjuna Pademme)
3) International Delegation Calls on President to Address Media Freedom Concerns
Victor Mambor Nov 14, 2015
Jakarta, Jubi/IFEX – An international delegation of media and freedom of expression organisations met with the Indonesian government to discuss the state of media in the country. It highlighted concernsregarding journalist safety and an environment that poses significant threats to freedom of expression.
At a meeting on Thursday [12 November 2015], Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Binsar Panjaitan re-committed, on behalf of the Widodo administration, to free press access to Papua and promised to review outstanding cases of killings of local journalists raised by the mission. The Minister was open to further communication with the media and civil society, and welcomed further recommendations.
The International Partnership Mission to Indonesia travelled to the country to meet with journalists, government and civil society representatives to review the media environment one year on since its first visit in December 2014. Significantly, it also conducted a fact-finding visit to Papua.
Publicly declared open to foreign journalists by President Joko Widodo in May 2015, Papua and West Papua have been restricted for international media for half a century. Access remains problematic, with obstacles being raised by local military and police. The mission met with Papuan journalists and media activists who described an atmosphere of surveillance and intimidation, as well as claims of security agents posing as journalists.
The mission also heard about challenges to freedom of expression more broadly across the country. Continued violence against the media and the failure to bring perpetrators to justice fuels further attacks, and leads to self-censorship. The digital space is an emerging front line for the media, meanwhile the Electronic Information and Transactions Law and the broader Criminal Code are being abused to silence critical voices. “In a region where the press is under sustained attack, Indonesia has a leadership role to play in defending media freedoms,” the mission said.
“There has been little demonstrable progress following the recommendations offered by the mission a year ago, and despite significant interventions by local civil society organisations. The government of President Widodo should do more to advance media freedom and protect journalists.”
On its first visit, the mission was briefed on the 2009 Anak Agung Prabangsa murder case in Bali, which as a result of cooperation between media, police and local government resulted in the prosecution not only of the killers but also of the mastermind.
“The Prabangsa case proves that Indonesia can tackle impunity,” the mission said. “We welcome the dialogue that has begun with the Widodo administration.”
The Mission will publish a report of its findings and recommendations by the end of November. Recommendations from the IPMI visit in 2014 are available here. (*)