Tag Archives: Press Freedom

RSF: Indonesian president fails to keep media freedom pledges in first year

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Reporters Without Borders is very disappointed by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s performance as regards freedom of information and media freedom during his first year in office.

Despite the democratic hopes raised by his election, Joko Widodo’s presidency is far from meeting expectations with regard to access to information,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk.

The authorities continue to suppress information and Jokowi’s campaign pledge to open up the West Papua region to foreign journalists was just an illusion. If journalists can go there – under certain conditions – they are closely watched, exposing their sources to reprisals by the authorities.

The former governor of Jakarta, Jokowi began his term well. His inauguration on 20 October 2014 was followed a few days later by the release of French journalists Valentine Bourrat and Thomas Dandois.

Bourrat and Dandois had fallen victim to Indonesia’s restrictive practices in West Papua (the western half of the island of New Guinea) and were sentenced to two and a half months in prison for violating Indonesia’s draconian immigration laws by doing a report there after entering the country on tourist visas.

Their fixer, Areki Wanimbo, was only released after being held for eight months.

Ever since annexing the West Papua region in 1963, the Indonesia authorities have restricted access for foreign journalists because of acts of violence against civilians and the government’s crackdown on the separatist movements operating there. The few journalists managing to visit the region, which is an information “black hole,” have been closely watched.

On 10 May, Jokowi announced the lifting of the ban on foreign journalists going to the West Papua region. The opening of Indonesia’s most secret region to journalists was one of the campaign promises made by Jokowi, who even told journalists that “there’s nothing to hide”.

The decision allowed New Zealand’s Maori TV to do a report on the ethnic Papuan community for its “Native Affairs” programme. This was the first report of this kind in more than 50 years.

But there is no guarantee of lasting access to information in the region. Certain army factions that have profited from Indonesia’s occupation are expected to continue to oppose media coverage. It is also highly unlikely that the authorities will let journalists investigate all the human rights violations that have taken place since annexation.

Jokowi’s announcement – made while Indonesia was in the international spotlight following the death sentences pass on seven foreigners for drug trafficking – has all the hallmarks of a smokescreen designed to fob off international public opinion and add some temporary gloss to Indonesia’s image.

While foreign reporters are no longer openly targeted in the West Papua region, the authorities still have their fixers and sources in their sights. Two fixers working for a French journalist were arrested and questioned by the police at the start of this month.

The authorities also restrict the freedom of local journalists. Abeth You, a reporter for the TabloidJubi.com website, was attacked by police on 8 October while covering a demonstration in Jayapura, the West Papua region’s biggest city. It was organized by Solidarity for Victims of Human Rights Violations in Papua.

After the police bundled You into a truck, an officer seized his camera and deleted all his photos – all the while threatening him with his gun. Even when they have press cards, local journalists covering demonstrations continue to be treated by the police as demonstrators.

Coverage of certain sensitive subjects also continues to be closely controlled in the rest of Indonesia. British journalists Rebecca Prosser and Neil Bonner are still awaiting a verdict in their trial after being arrested for reportedly filming a reenaction of pirates attacking an oil tanker in the Malacca Strait, near Singapore.

Rear Admiral Taufiqurrahman said shortly after their arrest that “what they were reenacting (…) could tarnish the image of the Malacca Strait as a crime-prone area.” The two journalists have been held since May under Indonesia’s immigration laws.

In a couple of months, we will know whether Jokowi’s presidency has caused Indonesia to fall in the 2016 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

Benjamin Ismaïl

Head of Asia Desk
Reporters Without Borders

LP3BH holds a meeting ahead of May 1st

Statement by the Executive-Director of LP3BH-Manokwari, Yan Christian Warinussy

April 30, 2015

Today, Thursday, April 30th. the LP3BH organised a discussion on
the subject, Papua’s Integration with the Republic of Indonesia on 1
May 1963: A Blessing or a Disaster? Fifteen people took part in the
discussion. including community leaders, academics, activists, LP3BH
staff members and several other people.

One of the important points that was discussed is the immediate
necessity for Papuan people to come together and express their full
support for the international campaign which is urging the Indonesian
government to immediately allow access to Papua for journalists as
well as Indonesian and international human rights organisations.

Those attending the discussion agreed that it is very important for
the Papuan people to set up a local political party to provide a
means of communication to support the efforts of the Papuan people in
accordance with the provisions in the Special Autonomy Law for Papua.

They agreed on two points that should be discussed in another
discussion which is to be held next week.

During today’s discussion, we received a report from a colleague in
Nabire saying that special police units there had arrested a
journalist, Yohanes Kuaya, from an online publication ‘selangkah.com’
who was reporting on a shooting incident that occurred outside the
Nabire Hospital at noon, today.

According to the LP3BH contact in Nabire, this colleague was
arrested because he was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words:
Free West Papua (Papuan Students Alliance) and was accused of
entering a restricted area wearing this T-shirt. After being
interrogated for about an hour, he was released and ordered to change
his T-shirt which the police regarded as being completely
unacceptable. He subsequently changed his T-shirt and went home.

During the discussion organised by the LP3BH today, the chairman of
the KNPB (National Committee of West Papua) Alexander Nekemen, who was also present at today’s discussion, left the meeting before the
discussion it had ended, in order to check the situation of several
members of the KNPB who were handing out leaflets to people in the
streets, calling on them to take part in a peaceful action that is due
to take place on May 1st.

As far as we know at the moment, several of these KNPB members are
still being held by the chief of police of Manokwari and we have not
yet heard about what is happening to Alex and the other local KNPB
members.

Peace!

Yan Christian Warinussy, Executive-Director of LP3BH.

Translated by Carmel Budiardjo

PMC: Detained French journos may face five years in prison

French journalists Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat. Image: Free West Papua Campaign

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

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JAYAPURA (Sydney Morning Herald / Pacific Media Watch / West Papua Media Alerts): Indonesian authorities want to jail two French journalists for five years for the “crime” of reporting from West Papua without journalists’ visas.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported yesterday that instead of deporting journalists Thomas Dandois, 40, and Valentine Bourrat,29, as is normal practice, Indonesian authorities want the maximum sentence.

The head of the Immigration Office in Papua, Garda Tampubolon, told Fairfax Media that the journalists would remain in jail until their trial started, which might be next month.

Dandois and Bourrat have already been in custody for a month.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported:

“Police spokesman Sulistyo Pudjo said the criminal subversion investigation was under way but ‘this is a very complicated case, it is not easy’. The charge carries a 20-year jail sentence. Police have indicated in the past that Dandois and Bourrat are under suspicion over an ammunition swap gone wrong in the Papua Highlands, during which two police officers were shot. However, the only evidence of their alleged involvement appears to be that they interviewed political separatists”.

It appears that Indonesia wishes to deter foreign journalists from reporting on their 50-year military occupation of West Papua because they are persisting with charging Bourrat and Dandois even though the journalists issued an apology for reporting without the correct visa.

Arte TV’s production house has also promised not to use any footage which “may discredit Indonesia’s reputation”, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Meanwhile, the West Papua Media news service reports that several West Papuans have been arrested for meeting with Dandois and Bourrat last month.

These are respected indigenous West Papuan leader, Areki Wanimbo, who met with the journalists on the day they were arrested, along with Deni Dow and Jornus Wenda who also attended the meeting.

Theo Hesegem and a Mr Logo, who accompanied the journalists to the meeting with Wanimbo, were also arrested.

Low, Wenda and Dow were interrogated for 24 hours before being released without charge, but Wanimbo remains in detention and has been charged with “complicity to misuse a permit” and “treason”.

The “treason” charge relates to Wanimbo collecting donations for a meeting to discuss West Papua’s membership application to the Melanesia Spearhead Groups (MSG).

 

(West Papua Media editorial note:  As West Papua Media is accused by the Indonesian police of being a participant in this case, and its editor has also been threatened by Indonesian police with illegal extradition (rendition) for arrest under subversion and espionage charges; for ethical and security reasons, all reportage on this case is being done via our partners at the Pacific Media Centre and syndicated here.  We thank our partners for their continued support during this difficult time.)

Indonesian police threaten Bintang Papua journalists in Yapen for reporting on demos

Threats against Bintang Papua journalists reported by JUBI

JUBI, 2 June 2012Jayapura: According to several journalists working in Serui, Yapen district in Papua, including a journalist from Bintang Papua,  they had been warned against publishing information about a demonstration that took place there on 29 May. Bintang Papua has  expressed its regrets about this information regarding what the police had done. Journalists have the right to report what happened regarding incidents like this.

The chief editor of the newspaper, Daud Sony  said in response to a query from JUBI: ‘I have just received information from Seo, our contributor in Serui. He said that the terror and threats made by the police were highly regrettable .This is now the era of reform and space should be given to anyone to exercise the right of response, including journalists.’

The Bintang Papua journalist who was in Serui had rung JUBI to tell them about intimidation and terror by the local police after they had sent a report  about a demonstration by Wadapi inhabitants to the Yapen Legislative assembly, DPRD regarding the arrest of John Nuntian. ‘We were accused of inciting discord by circulating this report, but we had already sought and received confirmation from the police.

In addition to Seo, another journalist, Ulis Makabori reported that he had been intimidated by the police for reporting information about the demonstration. Ulis wrote  a detailed report about happened during the demonstration.

Article 4 para (1) of Press Law 4/1999 states:  ‘The freedom of the press is guaranteed as a basic right of all citizens, The press shall be free of any attempt to prevent , prohibit or use other means  to prevent the population from receiving information.

[Abridged in translation b TAPOL]