AHRC: Killing of a journalist in Papua explained as suicide by local police

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-128-2010

8 September 2010
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INDONESIA: Killing of a journalist in Papua explained as suicide by local police

ISSUES: Human rights defenders; freedom of expression; extrajudicial killings
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission has been informed about the killing of a journalist and human rights defender in Merauke, Papua, Indonesia. Mr. Ardiansyah Matra’is (25 years old) was found dead on July 30, 2010 floating naked in the Maro River after he disappeared two days previously. Several journalists received intimidating SMS (short message service) in the weeks before the killing. Unofficial police reports have indicated that his ribs were broken and his lungs filled with water.

CASE NARRATIVE: (according to information received from Foker LSM – NGO Forum for Coorperation in Papua)

In the late evening of July 28, 2010 Mr. Matra’is was reported missing after his wife had not seen him returning home all day. After the police was informed, a special team searched for him for two days. They had only found his helmet and motorbike parked near the Waliwali Tujuh Bridge on the Maro River. At 7 am on July 30, 2010, fishermen found his naked corpse floating near the Dermaga Gudang Arang Warehouse, Merauke. (warning: this image is graphic in detail. Photo of Mr. Matra’is body as it was found in the river). The body was brought to the hospital and identified by his family. The first formal autopsy result did not acknowledge any signs of violence while according to an informal notice from the District Police the lungs were filled with water and two ribs were broken which indicates the use of physical violence. The regional police announced the conduct of a second autopsy at a different location, to which several of Mr. Matra’is organs were sent.

The bridge where Mr. Matra’is motorbike was found is a popular place where locals frequently go for recreation to enjoy the scenery. Mr. Matra’is was known to have often visited for taking photos near the bridge where his motorbike was found. The Police chief of Merauke, Djoko AKBP Prihadi SH concluded this case to be a suicide based on interviews with the victim’s family and colleagues and the evidence on the bridge and the first autopsy report by the local district hospital. According to the police the suicide would have been committed as a result of the stress that he must have experienced from the daily work as a journalist.

(photos’ source: http://kebebasan-kebebasancom.blogspot.com)

Journalist work and intimidation

(according to information received from the local journalists community)

Mr. Matra’is had been working as a journalist for several years including for the national private TV channel ANTV. He joined http://www.tabloidjubi.com, a Papuan civil society media in May 2009. After he published a video about illegal timber mining in Keerom, several journalists received intimidating messages. Following the increasing threats Mr. Matra’is temporarily left Jayapura, his place of work at that time. He continued to feel intimidated and often reported to have been followed by unidentified persons. Colleagues reported that he had received SMS threatening the security of his children. Months later Mr. Matra’is worked with a local TV station in Merauke.

Journalists are reported to have frequently received threats in the period before Mr. Matra’is’ killing. The threats are allegedly related to local elections in which a large scale food estate project with international investors became the subject of controversy. For example, a fellow journalist received the following message, “To the coward journalists: never play with fire if you don’t want to be burned. If you still want to make a living on this land, don’t do weird things. We have data on all of you and be prepared for death.”

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write letters to the concerned authorities below requesting them to conduct a thorough investigation into the victim’s death. The intimidation against other journalists should also be investigated and pursued.

The AHRC has also written letters to the Special Rapporteurs on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression for their intervention.

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

INDONESIA: Short title describing the type of violation

Name of victim: Mr. Ardiansyah Matra’is (25 years old)
Date of incident: July 28, 2010
Place of incident: Maro River, Merauke, Papua

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the death of Mr. Ardiansyah Matra’is, a journalist and human rights defender in Papua.

In the late evening of July 28, 2010 Mr. Matra’is was reported missing after his wife had not seen him returning home all day. After the police was informed, a special team searched for him for two days but only found his helmet and motorbike parked near the Waliwali Tujuh Bridge at the Maro River. At 7 am on July 30, 2010, fishermen found his naked corpse floating near the Dermaga Gudang Arang Warehouse, Merauke. The first formal autopsy result did not acknowledge any signs of violence while according to an informal notice from the District Police the lungs were filled with water and two ribs were broken which indicates the use of physical violence. The regional police announced the conduct of a second autopsy at a different location, to which several of Mr. Matra’is organs were sent.

Mr. Matra’is as well as other journalists in Merauke received intimidating messages via SMS (short message service) in recent months. Many see them related to local elections as well as other critical activities of journalist in Papua. The heavy military presence and the ongoing corruption had since been the serious obstacles for the region to sustainably develop and results in ongoing human rights violations and aggravates social tensions. The free and critical work of the media is central to the development in the region.

I request you to conduct a thorough investigation of the killing of Mr. Matra’is, as well as the intimidation against journalists in Merauke and other areas in Papua. I would like to point out that strongest action needs to be taken in accordance with law to ensure the safety of all journalists, the freedom of the press and the freedom of expression in Papua.

I am calling for your intervention into the case to ensure an independent and qualified investigation in the killing of Mr. Matra’is as well as into the intimidating climate for journalists in Merauke.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Drs.Bekto. Suprato. M.Si
Head of Police Area Headquarters Jayapura, Papua province
Jl. Samratulangi No. 8 Jayapura
INDONESIA
Tel: + 62 0967 531014
Fax: +62 0967 533763

2. Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri
Chief of National Police
Jl. Trunojoyo No. 3
Jakarta Selatan
INDONESIA
Fax: +62 21 720 7277

3. R. Widyopramono SH,M.Hum
District Attorney Papua
Kejaksaan Tinggi Papua
Jl. Anggrek No.6 Tj. Ria Jayapura
INDONESIA

4. Paulus Waterpauw
Director of the Criminal Unit
Papua Regional Police
Jl. Samratulangi
No. 8 Jayapura
INDONESIA

5. Mr. Susilo Bambang Yudoyono
President
Republic of Indonesia
Presidential Palace
Jl. Medan Merdeka Utara
Jakarta Pusat 10010
INDONESIA
Fax: + 62 21 231 41 38, 345 2685, 345 7782

6. Mr. Ifdhal Kasim
Chairperson
KOMNAS HAM (National Human Rights Commission)
Jl. Latuharhary No. 4B Menteng
Jakarta Pusat 10310
INDONESIA
Fax: +62 21 3151042/3925227

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme (ua@ahrc.asia)
Indonesia Desk (indonesia@ahrc.asia)
Asian Human Rights Commission

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