Media alliance calls in Jokowi’s pledge to allow foreign journalists into Papua

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Papua media freedom
Journalists and activists mark Press Freedom Day in Jakarta in 2017 with a protest over Papua. Image: Benar News

By Achmad Nasrudin Yahya in Jakarta

The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) is calling in a pledge made by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo in 2015 over press freedom in Papua that has never been fulfilled over the past five years.

AJI trade union advocacy division head Erick Tanjung said that at the beginning of Widodo’s first term in office he pledged to allow foreign and domestic journalists to freely report in Papua.

“But the fact is that to this day this promise has never been fulfilled by President Jokowi,” he said during an event on World Press Freedom Day launching an AJI report titled The Press Freedom Situation in Indonesia in 2021.

“So we have consistently called on the president to open access to foreign journalists to report in Papua, including domestic journalists and journalists from Papua.”

Based on AJI’s records, between 2012 and 2015 there were at least 77 cases where journalists were prevented from carrying out their work in the Land of the Bird of Paradise, as Papua is known.

In addition to this, AJI also recorded 74 cases of journalists having to obtain prior permission to report in Papua and 56 cases of permits being refused.

Meanwhile, out of the scores of applications for permits to report in Papua, only 18 permits were issued.

Six deportation cases
“There were six cases of deportations,” said Tanjung.

In addition to the issue of access, freedom of information in Papua also faces obstacles due to the high level of violence against journalists in Papua.

Tanjung said that there were at least 114 cases of violence against journalists in Papua over the last 20 years or between 2000 and 2021.

“Based on data we gathered through the AJI Papua subdivision, the number of cases of violence against journalists and the media in Papua over the last 20 years or between 2000 and 2021 was 141 cases of violence,” said Tanjung.

Thirty-six out of these 114 cases were against journalists from Papua while 40 were against non-Papuan journalists.

Finally, there were 38 cases of intimidation against media companies and the media in general.

When he visited Wapeko Village in the Kurik subdistrict of Merauke regency, Papua, on Sunday, 10 May 2015, President Widodo said that foreign journalists from any country were allowed to arrive and report in all parts of Indonesia, including Papua and West Papua provinces.

Two provinces closed
Up until then, the two provinces were closed to foreign journalist on the grounds that conflicts and violence in Indonesia’s two eastern-most provinces was still frequent, such as actions by armed groups wanting to separate from the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI).

“Starting today, foreign journalists are allowed to and are free to come to Papua, just the same (as they can come and report) in other parts of the country,” said Widodo.

According to Widodo at the time, the situation in Papua and West Papua provinces was different than in the past.

“We have to think positive and trust each other on all issues”, said the President when asked what would happen if foreign journalists began reporting more on armed groups in the highlands.

Widodo asserted that the decision must be implemented.

“This decision must be implemented. Enough, don’t ask negative questions about this issue any more,” said Widodo.

Translated by James Balowski for IndoLeft News. The original title of the article was “AJI Tagih Janji Jokowi soal Akses bagi Jurnalis Asing ke Papua”.

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