IFJ Worried for Safety of Journalists in Papua As Elections Loom

The International Federation

of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply disturbed by the death of reporter Ardiansyah Matra’is, whose

body was found in a river in southern Papua province, Indonesia.


The body of Matra’is, a former stringer

for national broadcaster Anteve and reporter for Merauke TV, was discovered on

July 30, at a time when threats against journalists in the province are escalating

ahead of local elections planned for August and September.


“The death of Matra’is is a terrible tragedy, and the IFJ joins with

its affiliate, the Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI), in urging that every effort be made by Indonesia’s authorities to fully

investigate the circumstances,” IFJ Asia-Pacific

Director Jacqueline Park said.


IFJ sources report that Matra’is was

under intense personal strain following his experience of frightening intimidation

about 12 months ago.


After publishing a report in Jubi, a Jayapura newspaper, alleging illegal

logging activity by Indonesian army officers in Papua, he was reportedly contacted

by a group of people claiming to be journalists and invited to accompany them

to investigate another case of illegal logging. Matra’is agreed to accompany

them to a secret location.


However, according to IFJ sources, the

group were not journalists but members of Indonesia’s State Intelligence

Agency. Matra’is was subsequently threatened and intimidated, and was allegedly

told that his family would be killed unless he returned home to Merauke.


Last week, the journalist’s body was

found in a river in Merauke, after he had been missing for two days. IFJ

sources say Matra’is’ arm was tied to a tree in order to prevent his body

drifting downstream.


Papuan police were expected to

complete an autopsy on August 2. However, local police commander Inspector

General Bekto Soeprapto said the results would be delayed because the autopsy was

to be conducted in Makassar, Celebes, due to lack of suitable facilities in Papua.


Meanwhile, journalists in Papua have

received a series of threats by SMS in the past week as local elections

approach, the Jakarta Globe reported.

IFJ sources report the most recent threat was on July 31, when a letter written

in blood was placed at the door of the Mereaukean home of Lala, a reporter with

Bintang Papua. Lala has since been

evacuated from the area by local police.


Police have sent an anti-terror unit

to Merauke to investigate the threats, which according to IFJ sources contain

language which gives the impression that the writer is not Papuan.


“The IFJ joins AJI in calling on authorities to conduct a thorough and

transparent investigation into the reported illegal detention and threats

issued against Matra’is before his death, and the recent threats perpetrated

against journalists in Papua,” Ms Park said


For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919



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