Third Papuan Congress opens in a field

Bintang Papua, 17 October 2011
[Abridged in translation by TAPOL]Jayapura: The Third Papuan People’s Congress opened in Jayapura today and took place in a field in the open air, after failing to get permission to use either the UNCEN auditorium or GOR, the sports stadium in Jayapura.

Selpius Bobii, chairman of the congress, said that the congress would open at 9am on Monday on Lapangan Sakeus (Sakeus Field).  He said the opening would take place as planned with communal prayers, followed by a seminar which may or may not be addressed by a speaker from the central government.

The format of the congress would be more or less the same as previous congresses – a seminar, followed by discussions and a plenary session. The speakers would include a spokesperson from the NGO Foker, Septer Manufandu, church leaders, Rev. Benny Giay, Rev Socrates S. Yoman and Rev. Yemima Krey.

The theme of the congress is as previously announced: ‘To uphold the basic rights of the Papuan people now and in the future.’

Bobii said that the participants have come from kampungs throughout the territory who were paying their own way; they would convey their opinions about what they feel. ‘Our task is only to accommodate them and facilitate the congress. They will speak about the situation in their own regions and will adopt decisions and decide what they need to do to implement these decisions.’

He also conveyed thanks to the central government for giving its blessing to the event. ‘We also convey our thanks to the community in general for their participation, and for their help in ensuring that this event takes  place in a conducive situation.’

Meanwhile groups who oppose the congress also expressed their thoughts. The chairman of the DPD (central council) of Garuda Indonesia Komando,  Richard Kabarek, whose parents and grandparents are from Bali and Java, expressed the hope that the congress would discuss the situation of the Papuan people.and how they can improve their living conditions.

As for the top officials of the provincial and local administrations, he said: ‘We hope that they will stop doing things that create panic and confusion among the population.’ He went on to say: ‘We are the younger generation  and we acknowledge  that there are discrepancies between us and the Papuan people. We are from the Republic of Indonesia – NKRI , we too need help, we need education and  we need decent living conditions.’

He appealed to the central government ‘to draw up a programme of development so as to ensure that the people living in the interior experience improvements  in their living conditions.’

He also expressed the hope that the Third Papuan Congress would adopt decisions that would not  be harmful to their own situation and to the community in general.

Another person who expressed his views was Yusak Pakage who decided not to attend the congress. He said that he had attended the Second Congress when  the situation was different from the present day. On that occasion, the central government supported the congress and also provided financial assistance and security. [Note: No reference is made to the fact that the second congress took place in 2000 during the presidency of Abdurahman Wahid – Gus Dur – who was sympathetic towards the Papuan people – which may well have been one of the reasons why his presidency ended with his impeachment. TAPOL]

Much depends on those who were given a mandate by the second congress, said Pakage: ‘Many things have happened since then for which they are responsible. Those who are  given a mandate this time should  report their activities to the people and should not do anything detrimental to the people.

‘We also know that there are those who are for and those who are against this congress, in particular the TPN/OPM led by Lambert Pekikir, who is chairman of the Revolutionary Council of West Papua.’

Speaking on behalf of the TPN/OPM, Pekikir said: ‘The Papuan people should not be influenced by the organisaion, the congress or whatever form of dialogue is agreed. It should not result in the Papuan people becoming victims because of the differences of opinons, between the ‘pros’ and the ‘contras’.

West Papua new Pacific media black spot

Cartoon from the Pacific Journalism Review report. © Malcolm Evans 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

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MELBOURNE (Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat / Pacific Media Watch): A new report on Pacific media freedom says the most serious cases of media freedom violations in the Pacific in the past year occurred in West Papua.

The report by the Auckland-based Pacific Journalism Review says repression in the province has now also reached the news media.

It says violence against journalists in West Papua has replaced censorship in Fiji as the most urgent media freedom issue in the region.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts
Speaker: Associate Professor David Robie, director, Pacific Media Centre

ROBIE: But there are very good networks of sources of information and there is also a major media  freedom organisation in Indonesia, the Alliance of Independent Journalists which has a very strong chapter in West Papua and feeds information very much to international media freedom organisations, because it’s not only Papuan journalists that face such repression, but it’s also Indonesian journalists working in the area.

COUTTS: Alright, can you just give us some examples of what’s actually happening, the conditions under which the journalists are now working?

ROBIE: Well, there was a big focus on the troubles in West Papua, in fact really since the early part of August and, of course, last week, at Freeport mine, there has been a shooting of protesters. The mine workers were protesting over the working conditions of the mine, but that was really a focus on the general sort of situation that journalists actually have to report on.

Our report largely dealt with the year which would normally have ended about July, but because of the major situation in West Papua at the time, we also included August. But essentially in the past year, there’ve been two killings of journalists, five abductions or attempted abductions, 18 assaults, including the stabbing of a journalist by two people on a motorbike and so on. And there have been repeated cases of intimidation and aggression against journalists and then, of course, there’s the general pattern of censorship by civil and military authorities.

In West Papua, not only the general sort of situation facing journalists, such as criminal libel, but there is a crime of makar, or subversion, of which is a concern for journalists too.

COUTTS: So that’s on a day-to-day basis and what about the public at large, are they similarly being affected?

ROBIE: Well yes, I mean that’s really a microcosm, if you like, of the broader situation. At the moment, there’s the third Papuan People’s Congress that just opened yesterday in Jayapura and there’s a general mood of dissension right through Papua.

COUTTS: And how did you conduct your research Dr. Robie?

ROBE: There is basically a network of people who have contributed to this report. Alex Perrottet, who is main co-author. He is Pacific Media Watch contributing editor. But we actually had quite a number of people that contributed to this report and they’re named in the report, including Nick Chesterfield, who is from the West Papuan Media network. He’s the editor there.

COUTTS: And the most recent incident was a couple of arrests by Indonesian authorities in Jayapura for being in possession of material that featured the banned West Papuan Morning Star flag of independence?

ROBIE: Yes, and that’s a constant sort of threat against all Papuans. In fact, I believe there’s been a call not to raise the Morning Star flag at this Papuan Congress this week, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens during that period.

COUTTS: Well, it’s a rather large report, West Papua obviously features. What countries did you look at?

ROBIE: Well, we looked at most of the Pacific region with the exception of the American territories, but I think it’s the most comprehensive report that’s actually been on media freedom in the Pacific. It was a 39 page report, but it’s focused largely on the Pacific Island Forum countries, including Australia and New Zealand, of course, but largely focusing on the island countries. But we also looked at the French territories, we looked at East Timor as well as West Papua. We made a particular feature of West Papua, although, of course, there are major sections in the report that deal elsewhere with Fiji, Vanuatu, in particular, that are ongoing freedom concerns.

COUTTS: And how did the French territories rate?

ROBIE: The most interesting thing there, of course, there’s been a development that’s been since the report and that’s the feature of Tahiti Presse, the state-funded sort of newsagency which is for the chop, in terms of budget cut backs and so on. But that’s quite a blow, not only for Tahiti, but also the rest of the Pacific, because the Tahiti Presse actually provided a very good English language service for the region and so that’s really going to hamper the coverage from that part of the Pacific.

In New Caledonia, it’s been more of an issue of the rearrangement of the French media laws and how that’s affecting the territories. But over the past year, there are no particular major incidents involving, say individuals or threats against individuals or such incidents.

So outside West Papua, of course, Fiji remains the overriding concern for the region.

COUTTS: When you look at media freedom, what were the premises, I mean what did you declare was media freedom and that which fell below that particular bar?

ROBIE: Well, we looked at quite a range of issues, we basically looked at areas of censorship, areas of danger and threat to individual journalists, we looked at the legal frameworks affecting all the territories, the report includes quite a chart doing a comparative study of all the territories in the region. We looked at areas such as criminal libel; and particular legal threats that journalists may face. We looked at institutional censorship and we looked at the passage of laws, such as freedom of information. Of course, the Cook Islands is the only Pacific Islands country that has freedom of information legislation, that came in 2009 and it hasn’t been working as well as it might, but at least it’s a chink or opening for the whole region. But in contrast, to say Australia, for example, where there’s been a whole host of reforms and the freedom of information laws that have been generally quite beneficial or in the process of making those changes. It’s been a slow process in the Pacific.

COUTTS: And also there’s the accusation by Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, that she doesn’t think that she’s getting a fair go from one of the media outlets here. Was that something that was included?

ROBIE: Not specifically that, but we did look at quite a lot of the legal changes in Australia and we also looked at the consequences of the phone hacking scandal in Britain, News of the World and with the inquiry that’s being set up in Australia. So we looked at those sort of patterns, we looked at individual arrests and the shield laws, all of those sort of issues were canvassed in Australia.

COUTTS: And because the reason I ask you to define what you determined was media freedom was because there are some countries, some of the smaller countries that the government’s have something to say if their press release aren’t published. So the media outlets have to do it whether they want to or not. Does that come across the path of media freedom or lack thereof?

ROBIE: Yes, well I mean and we’ve particularly looked at the dangers of Fiji, particularly the censorship that takes place since the media decree was imposed and what an extremely poor model that is for the whole region and very threatening to other countries, because let’s face it, we’ve had pressure on journalists, well ever since the 1987 coups, and politicians by and large around the Pacific don’t have a high opinion of the media and have a very poor understanding of the role of the media in any country that is a democracy. And so many politicians have actually looked rather with some admiration at what Fiji has done and would love to have the opportunity to do something similar. So the longer the censorship regime continues in Fiji, well, it’s really a cancer on media freedom for the whole region.

COUTTS: Well, you have a vested interest, of course, recent talk where the next PINA meeting might be held in Fiji, because PNG can’t host it. So I just wonder what that actually says about yourself who’ve been banned and kicked out, Sean Dorney, and Barbara Dreaver ? Three of the region’s senior journalists won’t be able to attend the meeting like that?

ROBIE: Well, I’ve never been banned. I’ve had more problems with the French authorities than the Pacific. I lived in Fiji for five years and was head of the journalism program there. But the point you’re making is actually a very serious one and I think it points to a major division among journalists and in the media industry itself about the role of Fiji and how Fiji should be dealt with. Of course there are those who argue that the Pacific Island News Association should have got out of Fiji long ago and set up somewhere else, where it can actually operate with relative freedom. But there are others who argue that well, “Hang on, we’ve got more chance of actually forcing some kind of change on the regime in Fiji by actually having contact and dialogue and having a chance to actually sort of reason”. And I don’t think those sorts of divisions have really been resolved. The plans for having this conference there in March, next year, I think are very fraught and a lot of dangers involved with this. It will make a mockery of such a conference if many people can’t come simply because they’re going to be barred by the regime.

COUTTS: Now just to wrap it up David. The 39-page report overall, what’s the state of censorship across the Pacific, is it a good or bad one?

ROBIE: Well, it’s a worrying one I’d say, it’s a worrying one, but the report does make a comparison, I guess, and this is where West Papua’s quite important. But you have to put things in context globally and when you look at countries like the Philippines, where journalists are murdered with impunity and you go back to the massacre back in November, 2009. In that sort of context, the Pacific’s not too bad. However, it needs to have a very vigilant campaign by advocacy groups and a constant watch, because essentially politicians are not very favourable with the media and they would like any opportunity to have a clamp down, so the more so the more that this is put under the spotlight, the better.

(cc) Creative Commons

Full Pacific media freedom report

Journalist covering events around Freeport is beaten and injured

JUBI,  13 October 2011Dozens of journalists demonstrated in Manokwari to protest against the beating of a colleague, Duma Tato Sanda, a journalist working for Cahaya Papua, who was beaten up by workers of Freeport during a clash in Timika.and suffered from bruises and swelling  in his cheeks, lips and his waist and was punched in the chest.

Sally Pelu, co-ordinator of the Papuan Peoples Solidarity Action for Press Freedom, said ‘Journalists are continually being subjected to acts of violence and there is no guarantee that we can do our work of gathering information freely.’

The journalists condemned the violence used against their colleague and called on the DPR, the central legislative council, to support the right of journalists  to conduct their work freely.

The journalists met a member of the DPRP West Papua, Jaxat who apologised for the fact that many members of the DPRP were absent, because they were involved in other activities.

According to reports, Duma also lost his camera, handphone and motor-bike which were all seized by Freeport workers. ‘They beat me , grabbed my camera and took my motor-bike,’ said Duma.

When he was attacked he was gathering information about the burning of three trucks belonging to Freeport which had been set on fire by Freeport workers. The trouble occurred after people heard that three of their colleagues had been shot dead during a demonstration. ‘I said that I was a journalist but nevertheless they beat me and threw stones at me. Luckily, someone came by on a motor-bike otherwise I could have been killed from being beaten by so many people.’

He went on to say that he was later chased by about ten people, ‘my sandals fell off while some people pelted me with stones.’

Johannes Samuel Nussy, the chairman of the Timika Community of Journalists, also condemned the acts of violence against Duma and said that another journalist working from Radar Timika, Syahrul was also attacked by Freeport  workers in Gorong-Gorong, Timika and was bruised in his face. He said: ‘They beat me because they didn’t want journalists to be there,’

According to  Johannes, some journalists in Timika have formed a relationship with Freeport. ‘They see the work of journalists as something threatening.. They say we are defending Freeport, which is not true. We hope that the workers trade union can urge their colleagues  not to see journalists as a threat.’

Third Papuan Congress to go ahead despite efforts to obstruct it

(Note – the Congress is currently underway, more reports to come)
Bintang Papua, 14 October 2011

[Abridged in translation by TAPOL]

Although the Third Papuan Congress is due to start in two days time, it is not yet known where it will take place. Selpius Bobii, chairman of the organising committee, said that plans to hold the congress at Cenderawasih University are facing obstacles because permission for the UNCEN auditorium has not yet been granted even though, he said, notification of the congress had already been submitted some time ago. Permission to hold the congress at GOR Cenderawasih has also not been received.

Bobii said that those organising the congress believe that there are forces who are exerting pressure to ensure that neither of these locations will be made available. He went on to say that however that may be, the congress will go ahead as planned because Papuan people throughout the territory fully support it.

Bobii said that they were still waiting for permission (STTP) from the police.The main issues to be discussed are the basic rights of the Papuan  people in a situation where Papuans are being violated and intimidated. The intention is to discuss the things they are experiencing  and what measures they need to take to uphold their rights.

The congress will go ahead without any support from the central government; all expences will be covered by the Papuan people themselves, transportation, food and drink will be provided thanks to contributions from Papuan people.

While there are elements who are trying to prevent the congress from taking  place and spreading all kinds of stories to discredit it,, Bobii said this was simply a reflection of the democracy now in place. He said that what was most important was that 273 Papuan tribes would be attending the congress, covering their own costs and even helping out with financing the congress as a whole. ‘There is nothing that will stand in our way,’ he said. Also, security will be guaranteed by a force of about 4,000 people. If anyone moves to prevent the congress from taking place, he said, they will expose the forces who are behind these attempts.

More than 8,000 people have already arrived. As for the location, if not in the UNCEN auditorium, it may take place in Theys  Square in Sentani or at the  graveside of Theys Eluay, as the final alternative.

As for the police permit, this will not be a problem because the central government has already given the green light. Bobii also said that they had received a letter  from the minister of political and legal affairs in Jakarta which, he said, had arrived by fax. This means, he went on, that ‘neither the military commander or the chief of police can prevent us from proceeding with our agenda’.

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