INDONESIA: Freedom of expression in Papua and West Papua

A Joint Oral Statementto the 27th Session of the UN Human Rights Council from 23 NGOs

Mr. President,

Franciscans International and VIVAT International in coalition with 16 international and national organizations would like to draw the Council’s attention to the still unresolved issue regarding the freedom of expression in the provinces of Papua and West Papua in Indonesia. In 2013, the Human Rights Committee in its concluding observation requested Indonesia to take the necessary steps to ensure that any restrictions to the freedom of expression fully comply with the strict requirements of (…) the Covenant (on Civil and Political Rights).[1] The request for a visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression has been postponed since last year.

We would like to express our deep concern regarding access to Papua and West Papua, especially for journalists. Local journalists in Papua and West Papua are often under surveillance by security forces observing their journalistic activities. Furthermore, foreign journalists need to apply for a special permit to visit Papua,[2] issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through interdepartmental consultation[3] on the grounds that security for the journalists must be ensured. However, it is not easy to obtain such a permit and, if issued, journalists have often been accompanied by Indonesian government officials. This is problematic because these measures closely resemble censorship.

International journalists without this permit face severe consequences as in the recent case of two French Arte TV journalists exemplify. On August 5, 2014, Mr. Thomas Dandois and Ms. Valentine Bourrat arrived in Wamena, Papua on tourist visas. They intended to gather information on the human rights situation in Papua. In order to learnabout the conflict between the Indonesian security forces and the national Liberation Army of West Papua (TPNPB), they visited an indigenous leader and a school teacher, Mr Areki Wanimbo, at his house. Shortly afterwards they were arrested on 6 August, together with their host and three Papuan human rights defenders.

They were subjected to interrogation for a total of 24 hours, without any legal counsel. This clearly violates the procedural guarantee, an important aspect of the rule of law. Even though the Papuan human rights defenders have been released without charge, a charge has been filed against the journalists on the grounds of misuse of visa permission (Article 122 of Immigration Law which has a maximum imprisonment of five years and maximum fine of IDR 500 million). They are also being investigated for alleged acts of espionage. Mr Areki Wanimbo has been charged with conspiracy to commit treason under articles 106 and 110 of the Indonesian Penal Code. Currently, the two French journalists and Mr. Wanimbo are still being detained.[4]

We recommend that the Government of Indonesia should:

  1. Immediately release Thomas Dandois, Valentine Bourrat and Areki Wanimbo without charge.
  2. Eliminate all obstacles to international journalists entering and carrying out journalistic activities in Papua and West Papua, as part of a commitment to end the repression of the freedom of expression.
  3. Fulfill the commitment to permit a visit from the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression to Papua and West Papua.
    Thank you.

Supported by:

  1. Franciscans International
  2. VIVAT International
  4. JPIC OFM Indonesia
  5. JPIC MSC Indonesia
  6. JPIC SVD Indonesia
  7. JPIC Franciscans Papua
  8. Bersatu Untuk Kebenaran (BUK)- Papua
  9. International Coalition for Papua (ICP)
  10. West Papua Netzwerk (WPN), Germany
  11. JPIC Kalimantan
  12. Dayak Voices
  13. Yayasan Pusaka, Jakarta
  14. SKP Keuskupan Agung Merauke, Papua
  15. JPIC Desk of Evangelical Christian Church in the Land of Papua
  16. The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), Papua Chapter
  17. Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC)
  18. TAPOL
  19. Sawit Watch, Indonesia
  20. Aliansi Demokrasi untuk Papua (ALDP)
  21. Suara Papua Media
  22. KontraS
  23. Serikat Jurnalis untuk Keberagaman (SEJUK)

Webcast video: Chapter 2

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About the ALRC: The Asian Legal Resource Centre is an independent regional non-governmental organisation holding general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is the sister organisation of the Asian Human Rights Commission. The Hong Kong-based group seeks to strengthen and encourage positive action on legal and human rights issues at the local and national levels throughout Asia.

[1]See CCPR/C/IND/CO/1 para 28

[2]Social Cultural Visa.

[3]The visa will be issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after a coordination meeting of the Clearing House, which is an interdepartmental meeting of, among others, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Indonesian National Police (POLRI), Ministry of Home Affairs, Indonesian State Intelligent Agency (BIN); Office of Attorney General, and the Armed Forces Strategic Intelligence Agency (BAIS). If the interdepartmental consultation refuses the request, the visa will not be granted.


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27nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council – AHRC