Tag Archives: violence against media

Activists threatened with twenty years jail for organising a nonviolent march about media freedom in West Papua

by Alex Rayfield

28 September 2012

Two West Papuan activists currently in police detention in Yapen Island in West Papua are being threatened with twenty years jail by the Indonesian police for organising a nonviolent march in support of the United Nations International Day of Indigenous People which this year celebrated the role of indigenous media.

Edison Kendi (37 years) and Yan Piet Maniamboy (35 years) from the pro-independence group West Papua National Authority were arrested by Indonesian police on 9August 2012.

The activists were leading a march of approximately 350 people in support of the International Day for Indigenous People. Police used force to break up the march. According to witnesses they beat up several Papuans and repeatedly discharged their weapons into the air. Sixteen people were arrested at the scene and a laptop, hard disk, modem, digital camera, documents and three Morning Star flags were later seized by police.

Banner at freedom of expression rally rejecting Indonesian rule in Papua on the International Day for Indigenous People. Photo via Alex Rayfield from West Papua Media stringers in Yapen.

Those arrested were subsequently released except for Edison Kendi and Yan Piet Maniamboy who remained in police custody. A local stringer told West Papua Media and New Matilda that Indonesian police investigators Sudjadi Waluyo and Arip Marinto have charged the two men with rebellion (makar) under section 155 of the Indonesian Criminal Code. Both defendants have been told that the police will seek jail sentences of 20 years each.

The controversial charge of makar has come under intense criticism from Papuan lawyers Yan Christian Warinusy from the Legal Aid Institute in Manokwari and Gustaf Kawer and Olga Hamadi from the Commission for the Disappeared (Kontras Papua). The lawyer argues that the charge of makar has been used as a tool of political repression to deny nonviolent activists their right to free speech. The law actually dates back to Dutch times and was used extensively by the former dictator to repress dissent in Indonesia. Suharto was overthrown by a nonviolent student movement in May 1998 but the law has remained on the statute books. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also called for the makar provisions to be struck from the criminal code and all political pisoners in Papua to be released.

The WPNA march was organised to commemorate the International Day of Indigenous Peoples. Ironically the United Nations theme for this year was to celebrate indigenous media. Yapen is extremely isolated. International media is banned in West Papua and local media is censored. So the very fact that story got out in the first place is testimony to the growing power and skill of indigenous media activists in West Papua.

Kendi and Maniamboy told New Matilda and West Papua Media by text message from their jail cell that they want the international community to help them. “We don’t want Autonomy or to remain with Indonesia. We want to be free! Don’t continue to let us be killed and thrown in jails” they said. WPNA media activist and Governor of Jayapura (under WPNA’s parallel political structure), Marthen Manggaprouw said his organisation wants the Indonesian government to negotiate with the independence movement to resolve the conflict. “The basic rights of indigenous Papuans are not respected in West Papua. There is no democratic space for us Papuans. We are criminalised simply for expressing our opinion” said Manggaprouw.

The men number amongst some 100 West Papuan political prisoners currently languishing in Indonesian jails. Although the Indonesian constitution technically guarantees freedom of speech in reality basic rights are routinely denied to the indigenous Papuan population. Papuans calling for genuine political freedoms are vigorously repressed by Indonesian police and military.

This is the original article to one which appeared in New Matilda

Indonesian colonial Media meddling inspires indp journalist to slam “fake journalism” in Papua

WEST PAPUA MEDIA Op-Ed:

June 30, 2012

An open letter from Victor Mambor, Head of the Jayapura Branch of the Alliance for Independent Journalists, has been circulated around Papua, highlighting the pervasive involvement of Indonesian intelligence personnel and military agendas in the Papuan press.

This letter (see below) comes at a time when the Indonesian-run colonial press in West Papua is coming under repeated attack from both Papuan and Indonesian religious and civil society figures, independent media and human rights organisations, for its unethical and blatantly false reportage of the recent upsurge in  “unknown killings” in Papua, referred to as OTK (orang tidak ketahui or unknown persons, now wryly referred to across Papua as Orang Terlatih Khusus or Specially Trained People).

Indonesian owned media outlets in Papua have long been identified with Indonesian intelligence and propaganda activities, with many outlets being directly owned by military officers for profit, and almost all media outlets coming under the control (either willing or not) of Indonesian intelligence personnel.

West Papua Media wrote a detailed section in the 2011 Pacific Media Freedom report and highlighted the issues faced with press freedom in West Papua, which detail the tactics Indonesian occupation forces use to limit factual reportage in Papua, and to dissuade journalists from doing their job.

However, as time wears on, the Indonesian colonial press is becoming even more blatant in pushing an agenda in step with the Indonesian military agenda.  This agenda is being keenly felt by members of the nonviolent civil resistance movement and Papuan civil society, particularly members of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), who are being blamed for the OTK campaign despite no evidence being presented to prove the military assertions, with what little evidence present having been entirely fabricated by a Police to terrified to point the finger at the real perpetrators of violence in Papua – their big brothers in the military.

This spreading of falsehood has reached a crescendo around the assassination of KNPB leader Mako Tabuni, who was gunned down in an execution on June 14 by Australian trained Detachment 88 officers in Jayapura.  Justifying their criminal act, Indonesian police have variously claimed that they shot Mako in self defence, despite many witness claims that he was shot in the back while on the ground.  Indonesian police then fabricated evidence including placing a handgun on his body in the hospital, and loudly announcing that Mako was responsible with other KNPB members for the series of OTK shootings, including the shooting of a German tourist.  This is despite the unchallenged fact that all shooting were carried out with men in broad daylight who made no attempt to hide and nonchalantly drove away in the DS (Police) plated Avanzas.

This was reported uncritically by many in the colonial Indonesian press in Papua, with ironically perhaps, the truth telling in Indonesian metropolitan media coming from independent human rights journalists who went out a their limbs by telling the story of the peaceful activist and freedom fighter whom they had all met and spent time with in his attempts to non-violently raise the issue of his peoples suffering under colonial genocidal policies.

Yet the shootings continue, even with the official suspect dead, with nary a comment coming from the colonial press, a situation that is a direct repetition of the assassination of Kelly Kwalik on December 16, 2010.  Kwalik was also blamed for the OTK shootings that have plagued the giant Freeport Grasberg Gold and copper mine for many years, shootings widely blamed on a spat between Brimob police and the TNI for control of mine protection and illegal gold mining businesses.  Again, despite the assassination of Kwalik (again by Detachment 88 officers), the shootings continue, and will continue as long as the Indonesian security forces use conflict as a way of guaranteeing their presence.  A presence that’s only purpose is to exploit natural resources and make the General’s money – at the heart of why Papuan people resist the colonisation of their Land.

Leader of the indigenous Papuan Kingmi church, the Reverend Benny Giay, was this week in Jakarta to brief international diplomats about the shootings and recent massive increases in state violence against Papuan people.  In his briefing, he said that when the government has claims shootings are carried out by separatist groups, Papuans respond to those claims with their usual: “Oh itu lagu lama. The authorities are playing the old song.”

As Mambor has outlined in his letter, Giay made a series of formal complaints to the Indonesian Press Council and journalists’ associations about the lack of integrity of Indonesian so-called journalists in Papua and of their non-factual scapegoating of ordinary Papuans for separatist and violent actions.  This seems to have already threatened powerful people, as a source close to Giay had told West Papua Media that he was physically threatened by a member of the security forces during his advocacy work in Jakarta.

But this behaviour by intelligence services and their not-very-opaque “journalists” is causing many independent media to look at other tactics to regain their Papuan voices.

Just as Victor Mambor has done with his heartfelt letter, the independent Papuan citizen media outlet UMAGI News has taken a bold step in publicly naming a group of Indonesian reporters that it believes are paid intelligence officers under the command of the Cenderwasih military command.

 
PAPUAN JOURNALISTS: STOP TERROR ON PRESS REPORTERS(PHOTOS: GOOGLE via UmagiNews.com)
In an editorial, UmagiNews  have argued that most Indonesians who serve in professional Media in Papua do not carry out the tasks and functions of a journalist.  “Whether in Print, electronic or online media, (journalists should) convey information what has happened, seen, heard, felt.  To be independent means to report the events and  facts  in accordance with the voice of conscience without interference, coercion, and the  intervention  of other parties including the owners of the press,” said the Umagi editorial.
“Accurate means truthful according to the objective circumstances when the event occurs; Balanced means that all parties have equal opportunity to have their views heard; and to not act in bad faith means no deliberate and sole intent of  the detriment of others.  Yet according to KM a Papuan independent journalist, most journalists who served in Papua have always worked closely with the military, which is a violation of  the journalistic code of ethics.”
Umagi News published the names of the following reporters whom it says it has gathered evidence that shows their active collaboration as informers and/or trained agents  with civilian or military intelligence services.  Umagi claims its information has come from sources within both the security forces, and from a TNI document from the command of the XVII/Cenderawasih Military Region Taskforce 6  “datasheet of  informants/agents”, signed by one Ahmad Fikri Musmar (NRP inf Captain 11,970,044,410,576).  All suspects are ethnic Indonesians and non-Papuan.

1). M. Imran (Contributor TV One) .

2). Robert Vanwi (Suara Pembaruan).

3). Safe Hasibuan (Bisnis Papua and Radio Elshinta).

4). Alfius (Pasifik Post).

6). Rio (Radio Enarotali RPD).

7). Agus Suroto (Metro TV).

8). Evarianus M Supar (2000-2002: Journalist at Radar Kupang Timor, 2003-2006: Journalist / Editor Timika Pos Daily, 2007 – Now:  Journalist and Antara’s Timika agent).

9). Anis (SCTV Contributor, Mimika) Note: The concerned had fled from Timika since the shooting of Kelly Kwalik.

10). Odyi (RRI Sorong, Chairman PWI Sorong).

11).Jeffry (Radar and Dita Sorong Sorong).

12). Angelbertha Sinaga (Pasifik Post).

West Papua Media has sought clarification from independent journalists and human rights sources in West Papua about the veracity of these names, and our sources have concurred with the accuracy of the names given in the Umagi report, though West Papua Media has not yet been able to see the document first hand. (UPDATE: WPM has possession of the original Kodim document and has verified all names contained, independently).
However this is not a new claim. For example, On May 16, The TNI held a major meeting with Indonesian press representatives in Sorong, and encouraged soldiers and journalists to work together to ensure “balanced coverage of the affairs of the function and duties of the TNI… so that it can be beneficial for society.”  The commander of the TNI in Sorong, Colonel Inf Wiharsa Eka, even exhorted all present to monitor events together, as “it runs the full atmosphere of intimate friendship, and even a means to know each other. The journalists should exchange phone numbers, either with me or Danyon commander (Commander Batalyon),” said the Colonel.  With friends like these soldiers, how could an honest journalist possibly have any fears of reporting events factually in Papua?
Papuan people reclaiming their own media space is an inevitable next step in the struggle for self-determination.  The building a free and robust credible independent media is the basis for any democratic society  – and indeed this is the core mission of West Papua Media.  But Indonesia’s deliberate manipulation of the truth and its corruption of the principles of journalism in West Papua, together with the ongoing and constant threats to brave professional and citizen journalists in Papua for telling the truth, are giving those committed to genuine journalism more impetus every day to give voice to the voiceless, and to help the voiceless roar in Papua.
(dedicated to the brave storytellers of freedom risking their lives everyday in Papua to bring light to a darkened place).
Nick Chesterfield @West Papua Media

———-

Open letter from Victor Mambor, Head of the Jayapura Branch of the Alliance for Independent Journalists

June 28, 2012, Jayapura

Respected Colleagues and Friends,

This is related to the many people that have recently commented that I (in my capacity as head of the Jayapura city branch of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) that covers the whole Land of Papua) have complained about, given reminders or admonishments or engaged in other actions that are basically protests against the (local or national) mass media’s reporting, considering it one-sided, deceiving the public, manipulatory, biased towards those in power and reflecting the interests of politicians and the security forces. In this regard I feel the need to communicate the following points:

1. AJI is a professional organisation of independent character and so places a high value on the media’s independence.

2. Journalists and their reporting are fully the responsibility of the editorial team at the journalist’s place of work, or where the news they produce is published.

3. AJI does not assume a capacity to take action against journalists or media who are considered to have taken action such as listed above. It can only take action if a member is considered to have violated the journalist’s code of ethics and that of AJI as a professional organisation.

4. I also truly understand how many colleagues and friends feel about reporting that tends to push indigenous Papuan people into a corner, and so seems to endorse the view that indigenous Papuans are separatists and the perpetrators of recent acts of violence. For this reason I very much support the actions Benny Giay CS has taken in making complaints to press and journalist organisations in Jakarta about this problem.

5. There is no need to feel hesitant or reluctant about placing limits on journalists during press conferences or activities. If it is suspected that someone is not a journalist, do not hesitate to remove them or report them to the police. There is no way to justify or defend journalists like this. Many journalists even have a dual job, also acting as informants for interested parties and are involved in the marginalisation of indigenous Papuans and feeding the stigma that they are separatists. Pay close attention to media or journalists who often mention the name Dani Kogoya or the confiscation of Morning Star flags, bullets etc. (this is about journalists present at the scene of an incident, not those reporting from police press conferences), or those that have produced features for television about young people who are OPM members, or journalists who are able to obtain special reports about the OPM or unrest in the interior connected to the OPM. These are the journalists and media which you should be cautious about. These no-good journalists’ space to operate must be curtailed because aside from selling out their profession they are also destroying Papua and propagating the stigma of Papuans as separatists. Watch out for and be careful with such journalists. Because from my own observations, many of us are so keen to progress that we do not act with caution and we are not aware if our activities are being recorded to be later reported to certain parties, and will be used in constructing counter-opinions.

6. An attendance list is vital for activities or press conferences. It means that if a media outlet or journalist was not present at an event but then writes report on the activity or what was mentioned in the press conference, it can be reported as a form of deception or unethical activity for a journalist. Such journalistic practices cannot be justified, but find fertile ground amongst journalists in Papua.

Those were the matters which I needed to communicate,

With thanks,

Victor Mambor

Statement of deep concern by Coalition of Human Rights Defenders in Papua

Bintang  Papua, 17 June 2011Human rights defenders in Papua very worried

Acts of violence and terror that have been perpetrated against human rights defenders as well as against journalists have led to a  sense of deep concern among human rights NGOs and religious organisations which are members of the Coalition of Human Rights Defenders in the Land of  Papua

The following NGOs held a press conference in Jayapura  on Friday 17 June, to convey their problems:

KomnasHAM- Papua, the Synod of the Kingmi Church in Papua, the Synod of the Baptist Church in Papua, Foker NGO (NGO Working Group) Papua, Kontras Papua, LBH – Legal Aid Institute in Papua, and BUK, United for Truth.

Foremost among the agencies criticised was the TNI, the Indonesian army whose members were involved in a number of acts of violence. They drew attention in particulate to five incidents that had occurred during the past five months in which members of the TNI were involved:

‘Up to June this year, there have been at least five incidents which reflect the  arrogance and random actions perpetrated by members of the TNI,’ said Olga Hamadi, the co-ordinator of Kontras Papua. Others present at the press conference included the Rev. Benny Giay, chairman of the Synod of the Kingmi Church in the Land of Papua, Mathius Murib, representative of Komnas HAM-Papua, Eliezer M, LBH-Papua, Julian Howay of the ALDP, and a number of human rights activists.

They said that the much-vaunted  reforms within the TNI were rarely reflected in the activities of members of the TNI on the ground. ‘Is this what the commander of the TNI was praising so profusely during his recent visit to Papua,’ wondered Rev Giay.

Mathius Murib  said that the incident that occurred in Puncak Jaya a few months ago had drawn a great deal of public attention, nationally as well as internationally. [This refers to the acts of torture against Papuans that were circulated by video.]

‘All their talk about Love and Peace is far from been applied by members of the security forces on the ground. Isn’t it time for them to change their tune?’

They said that the continued occurrence of acts of violence and intimidation by members of the TNI is a clear indication that no actions have been taken against members of the TNI who have violated the law.

‘We are concerned about the impact this is having on the reputation of the Indonesian state and wonder  what is being done to protect the rights of human rights defenders,’ said Olga Hamadi.

She said that in cases where members of the TNI had been involved in acts of violence, all that had happened was that they had been moved sideways. ‘Or, in those instances where they had been taken to court, they had appeared before a military tribunal and the verdicts were often unclear or had had little if any effect.,’ said Peneas Lokbere, co-ordinator of BUK.

The Coalition of Human Rights Defenders in the Land of Papua therefore issued the following statement:

1. Protection is needed for human rights defenders in Papua in carrying out their humanitarian activities throughout the Land of Papua. Such protection can be provided by the introduction of a special law, while at the same time setting up an independent commission at state level for the purpose of monitoring and advocacy as well as taking sanctions against those individuals who commit violence against human rights defenders.

2. As a short-term measure, we regard it as important to set up a special bureau within Komnas HAM to focus on the protection of human rights defenders.

3. In view the many acts of intimidation and violence perpetrated by members of the armed forces, we urge the military commander of  Cenderawasih XVII military command  to take firm measures in the law courts and administration against all violations perpetrated by members of the TNI on the ground.

4. To provide moral guidance  to all officers of the armed forces  as well as disseminate an understanding of human rights so as to ensure that acts of violence  perpetrated by members of the armed forces are not committed against civil society or against human rights defenders in the Land of Papua.

[Translated by TAPOL]

The Observatory: Indonesia: Brutal attack against journalist Banjir Ambarita

URGENT APPEAL- THE OBSERVATORY

IDN 001 / 0311 / OBS 049

Attack

Indonesia

March 25, 2011

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint
programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has received new
information and requests your urgent intervention in the following
situation in Indonesia.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources of the brutal
attack against Mr. Banjir Ambarita, journalist, after the publication of several of his articles in the local newspaper Bintang Papua of Jayapura, Papua province, and in the Jakarta Globe, denouncing sexual abuses committed by police officers in Jayapura.

According to the information received, on March 3, 2011, Mr. Banjir
Ambarita was riding his motorcycle in front of the Jayapura Mayor?s
office, when two unknown men on a motorcycle reportedly approached him, stabbed him twice in the chest and stomach and fled. As he began to bleed, Mr. Banjir Ambarita drove to the nearby police station. Police officers took him to the Marthen Indey Hospital in Aryoko, Jayapura, where he underwent surgery. He has reportedly recovered since then.

The Papua Regional Police and the Jayapura Police have set up a joint
force to investigate the case, but to date, perpetrators remain unknown.

Mr. Banjir Ambarita had recently written articles in the Bintang Papua and in the Jakarta Globe about two alleged rape cases involving the police.

In the first article, he had written that four police officers and three
civilians allegedly raped and tortured a 15 year old girl in February
2011, in Biak, Papua province. The last article, dated February 27,
2011, covered a second case in which three police officers forced a
woman detainee to perform oral sex on them from November 2010 to January 2011 at the Jayapura Police Detention Centre in Papua province. The media coverage of this incident led to the resignation of the Jayapura’s Police Chief, Mr. Imam Setiawan, and to the sentencing to 21 days of jail for the officers involved.

The Observatory expresses its deepest concern about the attack on Mr. Banjir Ambarita, which seems to merely aim at sanctioning his
denunciation of human rights violations, and urges the authorities to
ensure his protection and to promptly investigate into the
above-mentioned facts.

Actions requested:

The Observatory urges the authorities of Indonesia to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological
integrity of Mr. Banjir Ambarita, as well as all human rights defenders
in Indonesia;

ii. Carry out a prompt, effective, thorough, independent and impartial
investigation into the above-mentioned events, the result of which must be made public, in order to prosecute and try the perpetrators of these violations before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal;

iii. Conform in all circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration
on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular:

– Article 1, which states that ?Everyone has the right, individually or
in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of
human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels;

– Article 6, which provides that: “Everyone has the right, individually
and in association with others: (a) to know, seek, obtain, receive and
hold information about all human rights and fundamental freedoms (?);
(b) freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms”;
(c) to study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters”,

– Article 12.2 which provides that “The State shall take all necessary
measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of
everyone, individually and in association with others, against any
violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence
of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

iv. Ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights and with international and regional human rights
instruments ratified by Indonesia.

Addresses:

  • HE. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of the Republic of Indonesia, Presidential Palace, Istana Merdeka, Jakarta 10110, Indonesia; Fax: +6221 345 2685/526 8726
  • Mr. Gamawan Fauzi. Minister of Home Affairs, Jl. Medan Merdeka Utara No. 7, Jakarta Pusat, Indonesia, Fax +62 21 385 1193 / +62 21 384 6430, Email: pusdatinkomtel@depdagri.go.id⁢mailto:pusdatinkomtel@depdagri.go.id>
  • Mr. Patrialis Akbar, Minister for Justice and Human Rights, Department of Justice and Human Rights, Jl. H.R. Rasuna Said Kav No. 4-5, Kuningan – Jakarta Selatan 12950, Indonesia,
    Fax: + 62 21 525 3095/ 310 4149/ 522 5036,
    Email: rohumas@depkehham.go.id
  • Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights, Jl. Latuharhary No 4B, Menteng, Jakarta Pusat 10310, Indonesia, Fax : +62 21 392 5227, Email: info@komnasham.go.id
  • Permanent Mission of the Republic of Indonesia in Geneva, Rue de Saint-Jean 16, Case Postale 2271, 1211 Geneva 2, Suisse, Fax: +41 22 345 57 33, Email: mission.indonesia@ties.itu.int
  • Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia to the Kingdom of Belgium, Boulevard de la Woluwe 38, B-1200, Brussels, Belgium, Fax +32 27 72 82 10, Email: primebxl@skynet.be

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Indonesia in your
respective countries.

***
Geneva-Paris, March 25, 2011

* *

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this
appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, an OMCT and FIDH venture, is dedicated to the
protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete
support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org

· Tel and fax OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

· Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

The Indonesian Government: closing window for peace in West Papua

This article originally appeared at
Jason MacLeod

Just as Indonesia’s president Susilo Bambang Yudhuyono was being feted globally for being a democrat, the Indonesian government was entrenching Papua’s reputation as Indonesia’s last bastion of authoritarian military rule. Now Peace Brigades International has finally been forced out.

The latest casualty in the Indonesian Government’s efforts to seal off West Papua from international scrutiny is Peace Brigades International (PBI). In January this year the international non-government organisation was finally forced out of Indonesia. Since 1981 at the invitation of local people, PBI has been providing unarmed protection to human rights defenders at risk in conflict zones around the world. International accompaniment is literally the embodiment of the international community’s concern. The presence of internationals increases the cost of attacking human rights workers and expands the political space for local activists. All this is made possible by an elaborate communication network. PBI staff meet with local police and military personal as well as their superiors in regional and national capitals to let them know exactly who is being accompanied. This acts as a deterrent. The PBI volunteers are the eyes and ears of the international community, communicating the human rights situation on the ground to an international network of governments and civil society actors. It is a tried and tested approach that has worked in places as diverse as El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Haiti, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

Members of the PBI Indonesia Project were invited by Acehenese activists to accompany them through the darkest days of martial law. Acehenese civil society organisations like Flower Aceh and Koalisi HAM (the Human Rights Coalition) were able to continue their work because of PBI protective accompaniment. It gave local workers a sense that the international community cared about their situation and sent a clear message to the Indonesian army that they were being watched. PBIs protective accompaniment helped expand the space for peace in Aceh in the lead up to the historic Helsinki Peace Agreement. But in West Papua, home to Indonesia’s longest running separatist conflict, the world’s oldest international nonviolence organisation has finally met its match. After years of harassment from the Indonesian security forces the PBI Indonesia Project was closed down.

My colleagues and I helped set up the PBI West Papua project in 2003. I left the organisation in 2004 but kept in close contact with many of the organisers and staff members. One of the reasons PBI responded to an invitation from Papuan human rights defenders was because for years the Indonesian government has closed off access to West Papua to humanitarian organisations, journalists and even diplomats. It is important that Papua is opened up to the international community if human rights are to be addressed. But while the rest of Indonesia moved towards greater democracy, Papua slid back into an authoritarian backwater ruled by the Indonesian security forces as if it was their own private fiefdom. Since PBI established a presence in West Papua Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Dutch NGO CordAid and even the Red Cross have all been denied access. This level of hostility by a State to international scrutiny of a human rights situation is unusual. Even during the height of apartheid, the South African government permitted the Red Cross access to political prisoners. Not so in West Papua.

Prior to being forced out of West Papua, PBI was the only international human rights organisation with a permanent presence in Indonesia’s restive Pacific periphery. A group of long-term international volunteers based in Jayapura, the capital and in Wamena, in the troubled highlands, provided unarmed protection for Indonesian and Papuan human rights defenders and monitored the situation on the ground. PBI helped protect human rights defenders and lawyers trying to expose police brutality during the ‘Bloody Abepura’ trial in 2004. PBI also protected Papuan human rights defenders who were investigating the security forces after they cracked down on Papuans in the wake of the March 16 2006 blockade of the main road outside the University of Cendrawasih in Jayapura.

PBI is governed by a strict mandate. The organisation only supports unarmed actors, they do not take sides and they do not tell Papuans how they should run their struggle. Despite this the Indonesian government was petrified of PBI. I experienced this personally. When I was taken in for questioning in West Papua in 2007 after observing a demonstration in Papua, the very first question the Indonesian police intelligence agent asked me – even before enquiring whether I was a journalist or spy – was “Are you PBI?” By then I had left the organisation but it revealed the depth of the intelligence services concerns about PBI.

Almost from the moment PBI started work in West Papua the Indonesian government acted to restrict PBI’s access and ability to work. In 2009 the organisation was pressured to close the Wamena office in West Papua’s remote highlands, the scene of frequent human rights violations by the Indonesian military. PBI staff were refused permission to work as the police and intelligence services launched an official investigation into the organisation’s status. National Indonesian staff started to receive threatening phone calls. They felt increasingly vulnerable.

By late 2009 all one-on-one protective accompaniment had ceased. In an effort to stay in Papua protective strategies were reduced to regular check-in calls with PBI clients who felt threatened by state security forces. Then on 30 July 2010 Ardiansyah Matra’is’s naked, handcuffed body was found in the River Gudang Arang. His arm had been tied to a tree to prevent his body from floating downstream. Matra’is was a journalist working for Papua’s only national independent paper, Jubi. Matra’is had been critical of illegal logging operations run by the Indonesian military in Merauke and had taken photos of their activities. Matra’is was also a PBI client. His murder was the first time in Indonesia that a current PBI client had been killed.

The writing was on the wall: PBI was no longer making space for peace in Papua. In fact the opposite was happening. The Indonesian government was closing space for peace in Papua, and PBI appeared powerless to halt the slide into greater military impunity. Just as Indonesia’s president Susilo Bambang Yudhuyono was being feted globally for being a democrat, the Indonesian government was entrenching Papua’s reputation as Indonesia’s last bastion of authoritarian military rule.

But the Indonesian government’s restriction of access to West Papua is not just confined to grassroots international nonviolence organisations. Jakarta is even willing to snub the US government. In late 2010 the US Ambassador, Scott Marciel asked the Indonesian government if staff from the Embassy could observe the trial of three soldiers involved in torturing Papuan civilians. The torture, which including burning a man’s genitals with a stick, was filmed on a mobile phone camera and leaked to transnational human rights networks. When the footage was uploaded on to YouTube and featured on domestic and international news networks it generated massive moral outrage not just internationally but inside Indonesia as well. When the trial went ahead last month, Mr. Marciel was notified by the Indonesian government only 24 hours beforehand, not enough time to apply for a surat jalan, a letter of permission to travel to West Papua required by the Indonesian government. It was not an official denial from the Indonesian government but it may as well have been.

The Indonesian government is blocking access for all those who want to shine a light into West Papua. The problem for the Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhuyono is that he has allowed the Indonesian intelligence services to dominate decision-making processes in West Papua. The intelligence services determine who gets access into West Papua and who does not. They are the ones who assess the applications of foreign NGOs, journalists and even diplomats who want to travel to West Papua. Access to West Papua should be subjected to the rule of law and not to surveillance principles. If democracy and rule of law was present in West Papua, the surat jalan regime would be abolished altogether.

The Indonesian government cannot have it both ways. The human rights situation in West Papua cannot be fine while at the same time the Indonesian government and its intelligence and security forces insist the territory is off limits to foreigners. Either human rights are respected in West Papua or they are not. The closure of PBI in Indonesia only sharpens the international community’s perception that the Indonesian government has something to hide in West Papua.

Jason MacLeod worked for the PBI Indonesia Project from 2000 to 2004. He teaches civil resistance at the University of Queensland.