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Doubts over lifting of media restrictions

Tuesday 12 May 2015 | Published in Regional


JAKARTA – Indonesia’s president Joko Widodo has lifted restrictions that prevent foreign journalists travelling to the country’s Papua provinces.

On Sunday, Widodo announced that foreign media were now permitted to freely travel to the region to report.

However, Indonesia’s Co-ordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Tedjo Purdijatno, has told the Antara news agency there will still be screening of applicants and permits nneeded which carry preconditions if journalists want to report. He said media reports must not discredit Indonesia.

Last year, two French journalists were arrested in Papua province for reporting while on tourist visas and spent months in detention before being sent back to France.

Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono said the case in August precipitated Indonesia’s decision to open up media access.

“A lot of journalist associations, journalist advocacy groups in Europe, the United States, Asia, Bangkok and also in Jakarta, asked the Indonesian government to release the journalists,” Harsono said.

“The French journalists were released after being jailed for two months and a half. And their source was only released this week, after being in jail for eight months. So that arrest prompted an international outcry.”

Harsono said the opening up of Papua to foreign journalists could help resolve a decades-long separatist conflict in the region.

“I believe in quality journalism, however bad the situation,” he said. “Foreign journalists can elevate the quality of journalism in Papua.

Victor Mambor, a journalist for Tabloid Jubi, says he interviewed President Jokowi, who told him that the ban on foreign journalists would be lifted.

Mambor says after he spoke with Jokowi he read an article quoting the the Minister of Internal Affairs, Tjahjo Kumolo, who said that foreign media will still need special permission.

“The president said, ‘all of the foreign journalists can come to West Papua free, no special needs’.

“But his minister said foreign journalists who come to West Papua need special requests, need a special permit, need to write a letter, need to explain where they want to go. So I’m sorry, that’s a problem.”