Benny Giay: “Journalists in West Papua doing the same thing as Journalists in South Africa during Apartheid Era”

by Victor Mambor

Jayapura, (26/7) – Benny Giay, Chairman of the Synod of Kingmi on West Papua said that news of Papua, published by local and national mass media (Indonesia) have occurred in South Africa in the apartheid era. Investors and the government have controlled the public mind in a discriminatory manner through journalists and mass media.

“I think the news in the history of the community/state totalitarian and repressive media owner are required to follow the will of the regime. They, the media managers or journalists who write the story from the perspective of a victimized by totalitarian and repressive regimes are considered as trouble.” Benny Giay said to, Wednesday (27/6) in Jakarta via mobile phone.

In the same place, Septer Manufandu, Executive Secretary of Foker LSM Papua said  “The news media and journalists are very discriminatory. This is a problem for us Papuans, because news like this fosters separatist stigma and make people think that the perpetrators of current terror and violence are the Papuans. Though police are not able to prove it.” Septer said to reporters in Jakarta, Tuesday, June 26th.

According to Benny Giay, these circumstances indicate that media managers or journalists in this context are discriminating (against Papuans). However, he also understands that this situation can sometimes occur because the ruling regime have a (financial) stake in the media at which journalists work.

“Noam Chomsky has a view about this culture in which the investor or the authorities control the public mind with one-sided messages that discriminate against a sacrificial group.   Journalists in West Papua are doing the same thing as journalists in South Africa during the Apartheid Era in the 1950s or in Indonesia in the 19th century.  Nothing new in Papua.” said Benny Giay.

Press freedom in South Africa has a fragmented history. Some sectors of the South African media could openly criticize the apartheid system and National Party government, but they were hampered by government censorship for years.   Not many journalists in the apartheid era could draw clear boundaries between truth and the interests of the ruler.  Of particular interest were the media companies they worked for.  At the time of apartheid, the
control of journalists and mass media is very strong. The mass media were dominated by noise and propaganda from the apartheid regime.

One example was the death of Steve Biko, a South African student leader who founded the Black Consciousness Movement. On August 18, 1977, Biko was arrested by apartheid regime police of Africa on charges of violating South Africa Act, No. 38, 1967 on Terrorism.  He was interrogated by two police officers from Port Elizabeth, Harold Snyman and Gideon Nieuwoudt. The interrogation lasted twenty-two hours, including torture and beatings that resulted in Biko falling into a coma.   He suffered serious head injuries while in police custody and was chained to a window grille for a day.  The mass media in South African did not write about his torture instead reporting Biko was arrested for violating the Terrorism Act, until  journalist (and now political leader) Helen Zille, along with editor and journalist Donald Woods,  revealed the truth behind Biko’s death.

Steve Biko died shortly after arriving at the Pretoria prison, on 12 September 1977. The police claimed his death was the result of Biko’s hunger strike, but an autopsy revealed bruises and abrasions that caused a brain haemorrhage from a large wound in Biko’s skull.  The autopsy was powerful evidence that Biko was brutally beaten by his captors.

The attitudes of mass media in South Africa during the apartheid era over Biko’s death is almost equal to the attitude of local and Indonesian mass media in Indonesia around the death of Mako Tabuni, the Vice Chairman of the National Committee of West Papua (KNPB).  Journalists and mass media only reported view of the police, without any express testimony of actual witnesses. Newspapers reported that Mako Tabuni was shot to death because he tried to resist police, while some witnesses expressed Mako Tabuni was shot without warning. (Jubi/Victor Mambor)

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