Police Officers try to Stop Papuan Journalist from Taking Pictures of Demonstration

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According to local news platform Tabloid Jubi, police officers from Jayapura city district police have intimidated Papuan journalist Benny Mawel, as he tried to take pictures of Cenderawasih University students, protesting against the visit of the Indonesian minister for coordination of politics, law and security, Luhut Panjaitan, to Papua. The incident occurred end of March 2016. A group of police officers suddenly approached the journalist and said that he should immediately stop to take pictures of the protest. After Benny Mawel had shown his press id card, police officers allowed him to continue his journalist duties. However some  police officers continued to intimidate him asking him if he wants to challenge the officers.

 

 

Benny Mawel said that such incidents occur quite frequently, because many police officers in Papua do not fully comprehend the Indonesian Press Law UU No 40,1999, clearly describing the duties of the press and importance of press freedom. Repressive behavior of police forces towards journalists would particularly occur during demonstrations that are related to peaceful independence struggle, or trials with a political dimension, such as the treason trial against Forkorus Yaboisembut and several other Pauan activists in 2012, who had organized the Third Papuan Peoples Congress in Abepura, so Mawel.

Benny Mawels observation match the picture described by the Independent Journalist Alliance of Jayapura (AJI). In 2014 AJI recorded 18 cases of intimidation and violence against journalists in Papua. The restrictions on press freedom do not only concern local and national journalists. The Indonesian government places severe restrictions on access to West Papua for foreign journalists and observers. Foreign journalists who were caught in carrying out journalistic activities in West Papua have been arrested and deported. In 2014, two French journalists were prosecuted and sentenced to two and a half months prison because they had met wit various members of the Papuan Separatist Movement OPM. However, President Joko Widodo has lately stated to open up West Papua for international observers and journalists. So President Jokowi failed to put his promise into action.