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Indonesia opens Papua to foreign journalists

Papua governor breaks with years-long blockade

<p>Jayapura Harbor (file photo: <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-140760226/stock-photo-harbor-of-jayapura.html?src=2GW-dpDy0VOZ3gR8i2b4Rw-1-5" target="_blank">Shutterstock</a>)</p>

Jayapura Harbor (file photo: Shutterstock)

  • Ryan Dagur, Jakarta
  • Indonesia
  • October 10, 2013
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Papua Governor Lukas Enembe announced yesterday that his province will open up to foreign journalists after years in which overseas reporters were barred from entering the restive Indonesian region.

“Foreign journalists, please come to Papua. There’s nothing to hide as it will only raise questions,” he told reporters in the provincial capital of Jayapura.

As well as witnessing the steady development made in the region, he said that journalists “can also inform others that Papua is a safe place.”

His remarks came after three Papuans occupied the Australian consulate in Bali on Sunday, ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting. They urged the central government to allow foreign journalists to visit West Papua freely without asking for special permission. 

Four foreign journalists applied for permits last year, only one of which was approved. 

Victor Mambor, head of the Alliance of Independent Journalists in Papua, acknowledged that several journalists from Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands had faced difficulty in applying for work permits in the region.

“They had to wait up to three months. When doing their journalistic activities, after obtaining work permits, they had to be accompanied by special Indonesian officers,” he told ucanews.com.

Papua has been embroiled in a decades-long struggle for independence from Indonesia, which has entailed armed conflict between separatists and the Indonesian military. Rights groups have documented extensive abuses by the military on Papuan civilians, and some estimates put the death toll from 1963 to today at 200,000.

Paul Barber, coordinator of the UK-based TAPOL, an NGO campaigning for human rights, peace and democracy in Indonesia, welcomed the governor’s remarks, but warned that the central government will need to respect it. 

“While the governor is keen for outsiders to witness Papua’s development progress, he must be equally ready to welcome those interested in progress towards democracy,” he told ucanews.com by email.

“We believe that greater international access will help to open up democratic space in Papua so that the conflict can be peacefully resolved,” he continued.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa has previously expressed his support for greater access, but was concerned about security for journalists.

In a meeting with legislators in March he said among the aspects considered by the central government as a reason to block access was the battle for special autonomy of Papua, which has heightened security risks.

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