Indonesian police question Manuel Metemko after his arrest for allegedly spreading fake news in Merauke. (Photo: Nemangkawi Task Force)
Indonesian authorities have arrested a Papuan pro-independence leader for allegedly spreading false and inflammatory stories on social media, including fake news about Catholic Church leaders.
Manuel Metemko, 38, chairman of the pro-separatist West Papua National Committee (KNPB), was arrested by a joint military and police team called the Nemangkawi Task Force in Merauke district on June 9.
“He has repeatedly spread hoaxes, provocative stories and hatred online via his Facebook page,” task force spokesman Iqbal Alqudussy told reporters on June 10.
One of his posts claimed that Sacred Heart Archbishop Petrus Canisius Mandagi, who was allegedly the target of suicide bombers, was targeted by terrorists aiming to prevent a visit by Pope Francis to Papua.
In another, he allegedly claimed the supposed plot could have been a bid by authorities to stop religious leaders talking about the violence in Papua.
Yet another post said religious leaders were being terrorized by unidentified people.
It was strange that the task force made the arrest as it would normally be an investigator that did it
Other posts included calls for an independence referendum and condemnation of Papua’s special autonomy status.
He was charged under Indonesia’s Electronic Information and Transaction law and could be sentenced to six years in prison.
Emanuel Gobay, director of the Legal Aid Foundation in Papua, said Metemko’s arrest was unusual.
There have been no complaints filed with police about his posts, which you might have expected before his arrest, he said.
Also, “it was strange that the task force made the arrest as it would normally be an investigator that did it,” Gobay said, adding that everything pointed to authorities targeting KNPB leaders.
He said Metemko was the second KNPB leader arrested by the task force.
Victor Yeimo, the group’s international spokesman, was arrested in the provincial capital Jayapura on May 9 in connection with anti-racism riots in August 2019 in cities across Papua in which more than 30 people were killed.
….as we enter the last months of 2021, we are asking readers like you to help us keep UCA News free.
For the last 40 years, UCA News has remained the most trusted and independent Catholic news and information service from Asia. Every week, we publish nearly 100 news reports, feature stories, commentaries, podcasts and video broadcasts that are exclusive and in-depth, and developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes.
Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to – South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.
And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters who cover 23 countries in south, southeast, and east Asia. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don’t have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.
With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.