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Media Freedom critical for Human Rights struggle in West Papua

As the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) commemorates World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) today, the host country, Indonesia, is once again in the spot light with reports of over 200 peaceful protesters arrested including local journalists covering the protests in Sentani, Papua.

The most recent violent arrest of protestors and local journalists by security forces is a direct challenge to Indonesia’s international standing as a vibrant democracy, a champion of human rights and a defender of media freedom.

The Youngsolwarans say the Indonesian Government continues to deny the situation in West Papua, accusing social movements and support from Pacific states as having an unfortunate misunderstanding of the history of Indonesia and its current progressive developments in West Papua.

In 2015, Pacific leaders expressed concerns about the ongoing human rights violations in West Papua and Papua, and requested for dialogue to discuss the situation in Papua and the need for a fact finding mission to Indonesia. Unfortunately there’s been little to no progress as Indonesia claims it is an internal sovereign matter.

Luisa Tuilau

“If Indonesia claims it is indeed progressively addressing human rights violence then it must open up the region to a fact-finding mission,” said Youngsolwara spokesperson, Luisa Tuilau.

“As a young peoples movement that stands in solidarity with West Papuans in their struggle for self-determination, we are always criticized for lacking evidence of the situation on ground…and apart from what is leaked on social media and the youth groups we work with in West Papua, there is a greater need for media freedom and access for journalists to provide the facts of what is happening on the ground,” said Ms Tuilau.

She said Indonesia claims to be a vibrant national democracy, coupled with the highest commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights at all levels, thus, it is “equally important that Indonesia respects the role of an independent media to counter its rhetoric”.

“As much as Indonesia wants to fanfare its progress in West Papua, it must be responsible for the lack of freedom of expression of West Papuans and local media.”

West Papuans have the right to gather and express themselves freely without fear of violence, and the Indonesian government must respect their rights and not to discriminate against West Papuans, who are always stigmatized as part of their cry to be self-determined.

Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, had lifted the ban on foreign journalists into West Papua in 2015, but less than 15 international media crews have been permitted access into West Papua with limited freedom to report on issues in area.

According to the Reporters Without Boarders 2017 Press Freedom Index, Indonesia is ranked 124 out of 180 countries. There are growing cases of abuse and violence against local media in West Papua, and some go unreported. The Alliance of Independent Journalists of Jayapura Municipality recorded 63 cases of violence against journalists in West Papua from 2012-2016.


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