Jokowi administration opens foreign media access to Papua

Jokowi administration opens foreign media access to Papua

President Joko Widodo (Jokowi). (ANTARA/Widodo S. Jusuf)

... I allow the foreign journalists if they want to go to Papua just like the other regions."
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The administration of Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has announced to lift restrictions on foreign media in Papua, after on the previous day giving clemency to political prisoners in the countrys eastern most province.

President Jokowi stated that the foreign media are now free to enter Papua, similar to how they can enter other provinces in Indonesia.

"Beginning today, Sunday, I allow the foreign journalists if they want to go to Papua just like the other regions," President Jokowi said after attending a grand harvest in Wapeko, Kurik Sub-district, Merauke District, Papua Province, on May 10, 2015.

Starting now, the nation should think positively and promote mutual trust, which is disappearing lately.

"Do not ask that question, that is enough," Jokowi responded when questioned about a fact that foreign journalists usually prefer to cover the activities of illegal armed groups.

However, according to Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno, foreign journalists must first obtain permits if they want to cover Papua, and there will be screening, too.

"So, we will not be blamed if they go to forbidden areas," the chief minister, who accompanied Jokowi during the Papua trip, affirmed.

The entry of foreign journalists into Papua is no longer closed, but there are preconditions if they want to cover news, he stated.

Their reports must not contain defamatory content and information that is not based on facts and discredits Indonesia, the minister remarked.

Foreign media can report what they see, and they should not seek untrue data provided by armed groups, he added.

"So, let the journalists have a firsthand glimpse of the situation in Papua. There is no news alike what is reported by the overseas media," Minister Tedjo stated.

The government is now implementing the welfare approach and no longer uses the repressive security approach, he added.

"We can see that is happening here because the news published by foreign media described that the situation is full of violations. I think it is not true," the minister noted.

Papuas Vice Governor Klemen Tinal lauded the decision of President Jokowi to allow foreign journalists access.

"The statement is encouraging as Papua is an inseparable part of Indonesia," Tinal said.

There would be no more question why foreign journalist are banned from visiting Papua, he said.

As long as the procedure is fulfilled, there would be no problem for foreign journalists to visit Papua, he added.

"Forget the past especially as the country is restructuring the social political life to usher in a new era in the country," he said.

The president, during the three-day working visit to Papua, also granted clemency for five Papuan political detainees.

"This is a sincere effort made by the government to eradicate the conflict stigma that exists in Papua. We wish to make Papua a peaceful region," he stated at a press conference at Abepura Prison, on May 9, 2015.

The granting pardon was the first step towards releasing political prisoners in Indonesia, he said.

"This is a start. It will later be followed up by pardon, or amnesty, for other regions, as there are no less than 90 who are still in jail. This is the beginning of our efforts to release them," he affirmed.

He also urged security forces in the country, both the Indonesian Military and the National Police, to improve the way they handle conflicts in Papua.

"I want the military and police forces to change their approach (to handling conflicts) in Papua. Instead of applying repressive security measures, the welfare and development approach should be implemented," he noted.

Moreover, Jokowi emphasized that the Indonesian government was committed to developing Papua, always bearing in mind the welfare of the people in the countys easternmost province.

Earlier, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch urged the Indonesian government to change its attitude to foreign media and NGOs wanting to go to Papua.

The two NGOs separate press releases in early May 2015 recalled that President Joko Widodo had promised, during his campaign in June 2014, to open up the regions.

"President Widodo should deliver on his promise to end the severe restrictions on media access to Papua and allow both foreign and domestic media to operate there without interference," Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch said.

"Nobody is going to believe the government has nothing to hide in Papua until media can freely report from there," Kine added.

In the meantime, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives (DPR) Fahri Hamzah has said that by granting free access to foreign journalists to report on Papua,the President has given a message that security conditions in the region are conducive.

President Jokowis policy has also indicated that free speech is now recognized in Papua, the legislator was quoted as saying by the Jakarta Post on May 11, 2015.
(T.F001/KR-BSR/A014)

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