Jayapura, Jubi – Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on Indonesian President Joko Widodo to keep his election promise to allow local and international journalists to operate in West Papua, the Indonesian half of the island of New Guinea, without obstruction or surveillance. RSF’s appeal follows the expulsion of French journalists Franck Escudie and Basile Longchamp on visa violation grounds on 17 March.
“We remind the Indonesian president of his undertaking to scrap the restrictions that obstruct the work of foreign journalists in West Papua,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “Indonesia is due to host the World Press Freedom Day celebrations on 3 May but, given its repeated refusals to issue press visas and the growing number of journalists on its blacklist, it falls far short of qualifying as a country that supports freedom of expression and media freedom.”
During his campaign for election as president in July 2014, Widodo said he would allow journalists to visit West Papua freely, thereby raising hopes that media freedom would revive in the region.
But the visa regulations are as draconian as ever and West Papua’s immigration officials and military continue to abuse their authority in order to prevent independent reporting, with the government in Jakarta’s tacit consent.
In January 2016, RSF condemned the Indonesian government’s refusal to let French journalist Cyril Payen visit Indonesia after France 24 broadcast the documentary he had just made about West Papua, entitled “Forgotten war of the Papuas.”
Two British journalists, Rebecca Prosser and Neil Bonner, were sentenced to two and a half months in prison on 3 November 2015 for violating the terms of their visas.
Two French journalists, Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat, were arrested while preparing a report in West Papua in August 2014.
Indonesia is ranked 130th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.(*)
Editor: Zely Ariane