Indonesia urged to address press freedom violations in West Papua
Indonesia urged to address press freedom violations in West Papua
Observers call for improvement ahead of World Press Freedom Day in Jakarta
International Press Institute 15 December 2016
West Papuan protesters wear headbands with the banned “Morning Star" flag during a rally calling for the remote region’s independence, in Jakarta, 1 December 2016
AP Photo/Dita Alangkara
This statement was originally published on ipi.media on 7 December 2016.
Just five months before Indonesia is set to host UNESCO’s 2017 celebration of World Press Freedom Day, its government still has not met a regional human rights watchdog’s demands to address press freedom violations in the country’s restive West Papua province.
Upon the announcement in July that UNESCO would mark May 3, 2017 with a conference in Jakarta, the Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF) set that date as a deadline for Indonesia’s government to "ensure that there is open access to West Papua for foreign media, and an end to abuses against local media".
However, the government has rejected that demand. In July 2016, the Minister Counsellor at Indonesia’s embassy in New Zealand, Wanton Saragih, argued that great strides forward in terms of press freedom in West Papua have been made under the current administration, including a lift on the ban against foreign journalists.
Last year, all foreign journalists’ visa applications to West Papua were reportedly approved, including a request by Radio New Zealand International reporter Johnny Blades. But in an interview with the International Press Institute (IPI), he described a burdensome application process that required approval from 12 different state agencies, including the military.
Meanwhile, West Papuan journalists such as Aprila Wayar, who works for online news outlets Tabloid Jubi and Tanah Papua News, say they are forced into self-censorship out of fear of persecution.
"My friend [who is a journalist] died in 2010," Wayar said. "He covered illegal logging on the border of Papua New Guinea and West Papua, and they killed him. Sometimes I’m scared about [the work] that I do."
Human rights violations
West Papua has been the scene of conflict since 1963, when Indonesia gained control of the region on the western half of the island of New Guinea following a vote that pro-independence activists dismiss as illegitimate. Since then, activists maintain, Indonesian forces have killed more than 500,000 West Papuans and tortured, intimidated and illegally detained many more.
Local and foreign journalists have long claimed to be the targets of repression for covering pro-independence views in West Papua and IPI has noted the deaths of two journalists in the region this decade.
Indonesia’s stance on criticism of its record in the region has been evasive. In September at the U.N. General Assembly, six Pacific island nations expressed support for an investigation of human rights abuses in West Papua by an independent commission.
Jakarta responded by asserting Indonesia’s national sovereignty and the U.N. principle of non-interference. One month later, Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu asked Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to warn the Solomon Islands against interfering in Indonesia’s domestic affairs.
West Papua in the media
Indonesia has been able to use its political clout to ensure that little is known about West Papua today.
"When I was in the Netherlands, many people didn’t even know that West Papua still exists," Wayar recalled. "For more than 25 years, Indonesia hasn’t allowed [foreign] journalists to cover Papua, so of course the international community doesn’t know anything about it. And I cannot blame them or be mad about the situation, because Indonesia made [it that way]."
The few times that West Papua does make international news, narratives reflect those of mainstream Indonesian media and focus on separatist violence or strikes at Freeport-McMoRan’s massive Grasberg mine, one the world’s largest gold and copper mines.
According to Blades, who has specialised in West Papuan and Melanesian affairs since 2004, "for years it seemed as though separatists would be blamed for any violence, even when it was [false]".
However, a situation that has witnessed a spread of misinformation and lack of media attention is slowly improving thanks to the introduction of technology and social media.
"Jakarta can’t keep a lid on it anymore," Blades said. "There are still ways they can control it, the messages coming out, but not entirely."
Twitter and online news platforms have been particularly helpful giving international exposure to West Papuan issues. One example is West Papua Media, an online news outlet considered to be one of the best sources of verifiable information from Papua available in the English language. It currently has 12,575 subscribers worldwide.
Indonesia’s ‘right to be forgotten’
Unfortunately for online activists, and despite Saragih’s claim about media improvements, recent amendments to Indonesia’s Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law include a "right to be forgotten" clause inspired by a 2014 case at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) against tech giant Google.
The ECJ ruled that individuals can, under certain conditions, demand that search engines remove links with personal information about them. The European Commission, however, has made clear that the "right to be forgotten" is not absolute and must be balanced with other fundamental rights, such as the freedoms of expression and the media.
A proposed EU Data Protection Regulation would require EU members to pass national legislation to reconcile data protection with the freedom of expression. Indonesia’s ITE Law, on the other hand, makes no reference to press freedoms or how the "right to be forgotten" will be implemented, prompting experts to argue that it lacks adequate data protection or legal mechanisms to limit state power.
Moreover, the amended ITE Law not only targets search results, but also original content, meaning that all Internet content providers – from search engines, to online news outlets, to digital apps – could be obligated to erase published material if ordered to do so by a court.
Expressing concern over the new right, Indonesia’s Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR) warned that "this provision may become a tool of the government for censoring news, media and journalist publication[s]".
The way forward
Experts say that Indonesia must protect its Internet freedoms by drafting clear rules on the implementation of the "right to be forgotten".
Oxford professor Viktor Mayer-Schönberger noted that the right could be a positive development if it is applied judicially and its scope is narrowed, commenting: "Anything that helps our technologies to behave more like what we humans are used to (like forgetting and forgiving over time) is a potential step in the right direction."
But, he added: "I would want to make sure that the right to be forgotten is not designed as an absolute remedy, with information vanishing completely, but as a relative remedy … that slows one down, but does not make it impossible to reach your goal."
Blades and Wayar both said that journalist exchanges and professional employment are necessary to support high-quality local journalism.
While Indonesia may heavily restrict access to West Papua, it does not restrict Papuans from travelling outside. Wayar suggested that foreign media groups should invite Papuans abroad to attend skills workshops, such as English courses and other training programs.
She also explained that bribery remains a strong challenge for local journalists, who are not paid for covering human rights abuses and face the strong temptation of receiving money for covering Indonesian policies favourably.
Blades said that "foreign media outlets [should] actively engage with [local journalists] and use them as a correspondent or pay them to do some work".
He commented: "If there is some international component in their work, it might make their work safer or less compromised. Or maybe that’s wishful thinking. I’m not sure."
THURSDAY, 15 DECEMBER, 2016 | 22:36 WIB
2) Association Calls for Freeport’s Copper Refinery
TEMPO.CO, Jakarta – The Indonesian Smelters Association suggested that the government should offer private companies to process and refine Freeport Indonesia’s copper concentrate, since the giant mining company has not yet built smelters.
"For copper, the government should take over and offer the refinery to other companies. The government should confirm whether Freeport will build a smelter or not. If not, the government can find other investors," Indonesia Smelter Association chairman R. Sukhayar said in a discussion held in Jakarta on Thursday, December 15, 2016.
Sukhayar added that the government could invite investors to refine Freeport’s copper concentrate, if the company keeps delaying its smelter development. Sukhayar also suggested that the same could apply to other mining companies, such as Newmont Nusa Tenggara and Gorontalo Mining.
According to Sukhayar, since bans on raw mineral exports were enforced in January 2014, three investors have expressed interest in the smelting business to facilitate mineral refinery for companies reluctant to build smelters.
"The problems center on supply sustainability and other technical issues. There’s no need for legal basis because it’s a business-to-business affair,” Sukhayar explained.
Sukhayar pointed out that the scheme was worth trying, because Indonesia has a huge amount of supplies to meet demands on copper in Asia. China, Sukhayar added, could be one of the most potential investors to be offered due to its high demands on copper.
3) Declaration of Indigenous Papuans affected by Forestry, Plantations and Mining.
By ADMIN | Published: DECEMBER 15, 2016
A conference of indigenous Papuans affected by the forestry, plantation and mining industries was held in Sorong on 2nd and 3rd December 2014, a follow-up to a similar conference held in Waena, Jayapura in 2014. This is the joint statement agreed by participants in that meeting.
We, as representatives of indigenous peoples from the land of Papua who live in and around forest areas, along with civil society organisations from around Papua and further afield, held a conference in Sorong on the 2nd and 3rd December 2016, to discuss various problems related to development policy and investments in forestry and land, and their effects on people and environment.
We have repeatedly conveyed the facts surrounding the negative impacts of investment in forestry and land on the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples around Papua, including violations of their right to life, right to freedom, right to justice and freedom from discrimination, right to not be tortured, right to feel safe, rights to our land, forest and territory, violations of the principle of free, prior informed consent, right to food, right to welfare and development, and also low rates of pay and poor working conditions, forest degradation and destruction, and environmental damage.
We wish to state our pain and deep concern about all these rights violations, the suffering and the losses which we have experienced, both in the past and until the present day, which have come abut as a result of forestry investment and exploitation of forest products, plantations and mining, carried out by private or state-owned companies, with no just settlement or attempts at redress for what we have lost.
We wish to state our concern at government plans and policies for the acceleration of development in the Land of Papua, by providing opportunities and increased flexibility for wealthy companies, through the large-scale national food and energy development programme in Merauke, expansion of oil palm plantations and other export commodities, exploitation of forests, industrial forestry plantations, mining permits, transport infrastructure, and so on, all of which take place with insufficient prior protection of our fundamental rights, our right to land and livelihood and environmental conservation.
Based on this scenario, we would like to make the following recommendations:
1. Urge the President of the Republic of Indonesia to arrange a meeting of stakeholders, involving local and national government decision-making bodies, companies, financial organisations and other relevant stakeholders, and most important of all, communities adversely affected by development. This activity should be a umbrella forum for critical dialogue aimed at resolving the problems that beset the Land of Papua.
2. Demand and insist that local government formulates and issues local regulations focussed specifically on protecting rights to land and traditional justice in Papua.
3. Demand and insist that the government conducts an evaluation and review of investment activities and permits to companies exploiting forest products, land and other natural assets, whether or not work has already started.
4. Demand and insist that the government conduct a review and harmonisation of the various controversial regulations which are in conflict with indigenous Papuans’ fundamental rights, and involves indigenous Papuans in this process.
5.Urge and press companies to show true recognition and respect for indigenous Papuans’ rights, and provide redress and rehabilitation where people’s rights have previously been violated
6. Demand that the government redoubles efforts to find a resolution of human rights violations and the problem of large-scale land-grabbing in Papua, such as the bloody Wasior case, the MIFEE project in Merauke and PTPN II in Keerom.
7 Affected communities and civil society organisations should try to reach legal settlements without going through the courts and should engage in local, regional, national and international advocacy campaigns, such as: complaints to UN institutions dealing with human rights, indigenous peoples and the environment, the UN Universal Periodic Review, complaints to the RSPO (for oil palm cases), and reporting cases to the Corruption Eradication Commission.
8. Affected communities and civil society organisations should take advocacy actions that don’t involve litigation, including: campaigns about production supply chains and markets for commodities derived from land and forest belonging to the people, and improving networks of communications and media campaigns.
9. Affected communities and civil society organisations should also build networks of paralegals (and build the capacity of those networks) within and between indigenous groups in Papua, as well as networks of lawyers who can defend the legal rights of indigenous Papuans as related to social, economic and cultural issues.
10. Affected communities and civil society organisations should build and strengthen alternative economic community enterprises based on local indigenous wisdom and just and sustainable management of natural resources.
11. Affected communities and civil society organisations should facilitate community organising, capacity building and strengthening community rights at the clan, tribal and village levels, and also between different areas, though education and alternative learning media such as films and storytelling, ancestral land mapping, strengthening local leadership systems, attempts at justice according to customary law, a critical knowledge of the law etc.
12. Affected communities and civil society organisations should develop their strengths and movements together with the wider indigenous society to be able to press for changes in policy and for protection of the rights of indigenous peoples and of the Land of Papua.
13. Affected communities and civil society organisations should build, strengthen and extend solidarity between affected communities in different areas, different islands and different groups, to act together to resist oppression, violence, human rights violations, land-grabbing, and all kinds of injustice.
14. We also propose and determine that the 13th of June should be the Day of Indigenous Papuans Affected by Investment, which will be celebrated to remember victims of human rights violations, land-grabbing, the destruction of cultural sites and Papua peoples’ identity, as well as environmental destruction. This day will be celebrated every year.
15. We also propose and declare that a Conference of Indigenous Victims of Investment will be held in Merauke on 9th August 2017, as we mark World Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
The land of the Moi people, Sorong City, 4th December 2016