Riots broke out in Manokwari, West Papua on Monday, August 19 following demonstrations against racial abuse towards Papuan students in Surabaya. The protest started peacefully, but turned violent. The West Papua Regional Legislative Council building was burnt, while protesters blocked major streets. Demonstrations have begun in other cities too.
Following the protests, the Government of Indonesia announced it would limit internet access from 1pm until 9.30pm on Monday in an attempt to restore order. However, the Government revised the decision on Wednesday, shutting down the internet in Papua and West Papua.
This is not the first time this year that the government has restricted internet access, on May 22 following widespread protests in Jakarta. The government block social media platforms including Facebook and Whatsapp, and restricted internet speeds.
The chairman of AJI Indonesia, Abdul Manan, said the government should respect the public rights to access the information and restore Internet access. “Applying the blocking policy will hinder the access for the public to gain the information, including to be able to find the reliable information. It will also curb the reporters’ access to work and monitor the situation. Many journalists were directly affected by the Internet shutdown,” Abdul added.
The IFJ said: “Blocking and restricting access to the internet is an attempt by the government to control the flow and access to information, and a violation of basic human rights. Internet cannot become a tool of repression for the government. We urge the government to immediately withdraw the block and restore full access to the internet in the provinces.”