JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com – The Indonesian Press Council [Dewan Pers] have called on President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo to make good on a 2015 pledge to allow foreign media access to the Eastern Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua.
“Foreign media continue to face obstacles in covering Papua and West Papua in the form of permits from the Ministry of Communication and Information as well as the police and military,” said Indonesian Press Council member Asep Setiawan on November 13.
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“They would then use the permit to obstruct coverage of Papua and West Papua.”
Asep added that the security forces often cite the security situation, the dangers on the ground and other reasons to keep the foreign press from covering both provinces.
“While security is used as the primary reason to obstruct coverage, we have reason to believe that environmental issues is the real reason to bar foreign media. This approach is counterproductive, as it deprived them of first-hand data and information.”
He added that the Indonesian Press Council will not stop its bid to obtain "informational transparency" for the press. “One of our efforts is holding an annual survey on press freedoms in Papua, West Papua and other provinces,” Asep noted.
“The surveys have recommendations for the government and stakeholders to provide access to Papua and West Papua. Closing off access would keep genuinely objective information from getting out, which would have been counterproductive as it would have been subject to various interests.”
Asep said that the Indonesian Press Council would also continue to advocate for more transparency regarding Papua and West Papua, as well as other parts of Indonesia, to the Indonesian Parliament or DPR.
President Jokowi said that foreign media is free to cover Papua and West Papua, as well as other parts of Indonesia, during a visit to the Papuan district of Merauke in 2015.
Then as now, Papua was gripped by an ongoing conflict between Indonesian forces and Free Papua Movement (OPM) insurgents that lasted over 50 years, making the area off limits to foreign media.
(Writer: Irfan Kamil | Editor: Krisiandi)