Monday, May 11, 2015


   Jakarta, May 11, 2015 (Antara)- The administration of Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has announced its decision to lift restrictions on the foreign media in Papua, after it granted clemency to political prisoners in the country's easternmost province a day earlier.  
       President Jokowi stated that the foreign media are now free to enter Papua, similar to how they have access to the other provinces in Indonesia.
     "Beginning today, Sunday, I allow foreign journalists if they want to visit Papua just like the other regions," President Jokowi remarked after attending a grand harvest in Wapeko, Kurik Sub-district, Merauke District, Papua Province, on May 10, 2015.
          Henceforth, the nation should think positively and promote mutual trust, which has disappeared 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 screening will also be conducted.
            "So, we will not be blamed if they visit 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 noted.  
       The foreign media can report what they observe, and they should not seek untrue data provided by armed groups, he emphasized.
            "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 this happening here as the news published by the foreign media described that the situation is full of violations. I think it is not true," the minister pointed out.
            Papua's Vice Governor Klemen Tinal lauded the decision of President Jokowi to allow access to foreign journalists.
            "The statement is encouraging as Papua is an inseparable part of Indonesia," Tinal said.
            No further questions would be raised regarding the ban on foreign journalists to visit Papua, he said.
            As long as the procedures are met, the foreign journalists will not encounter problems while visiting Papua, he added.
            "Forget the past, especially as the country is restructuring its social-political life to usher in a new era in the country," he emphasized.
           During the three-day working visit to Papua, the president also granted clemency to five Papuan political detainees.          
      "This is a sincere effort made by the government to eradicate the stigma of conflict that exists in Papua. We wish to make Papua a peaceful region," he stated during a press conference at Abepura Prison, on May 9, 2015.
           The presidential pardon was the first step towards releasing political prisoners in Indonesia, he noted.
           "This is a start. It will later be followed up by a pardon, or amnesty, for other regions as there are no less than 90 political prisoners 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 amend their approach to handling 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 remarked.
           Moreover, Jokowi emphasized that the Indonesian government was committed to developing Papua, always prioritizing the welfare of the people in the county's easternmost province.
          Earlier, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch urged the Indonesian government to change its approach while handling the foreign media and NGOs keen to visit Papua.
          The two NGOs, in their separate press releases in early May 2015, recalled that President Jokowi had promised, during his campaign in June 2014, to open access to the regions.
           "President Widodo should deliver on his promise to end the severe restrictions on media access to Papua and to allow both foreign and domestic media to operate there without interference," Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, noted.
           "Nobody is going to believe that the government has 'nothing to hide' in Papua until the media can freely report from there," Kine affirmed.
           In the meantime, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives (DPR) Fahri Hamzah explained that by granting free access to foreign journalists to report on Papua, the president has sent out a clear message that security conditions in the region are conducive.
          President Jokowi's 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.  

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