IFJ joins International Delegation calling on action on media freedom concerns in Indonesia

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI) joins the International Partnership Mission to Indonesia (IPMI) in calling on Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, to address media freedom concerns regarding journalist safety and an environment that poses significant threats to freedom of expression. The IFJ welcome the increased dialogue with the Indonesian government and President Widodo and look forward to working with the government to continue improving media freedom in Indonesia.

The International Partnership Mission to Indonesia, which included members from international human rights and freedom of expression organisations, including the IFJ and South East Asian Journalist Unions (SEAJU), visited Indonesia from November 8 to 14, 2015. The IPMI travelled to Indonesia to meet with journalists, government and civil society representatives to review the media environment one year on since its first visit in December 2014. During this visit, the Mission held meetings in Jakarta and Makassar, Sulawesi, as well as conducted a fact-finding visit to Jayapura, Papua, in eastern Indonesia. The mission coincided with the release of Human Rights Watch report Something to Hide? and the long-awaited release of two British journalists who have been detained in Indonesia for five months.

During the visit, the Mission met with the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, who re-committed, on behalf of the Widodo administration, to free press access to Papua and promised to review outstanding cases of killings of local journalists raised by the mission.

The mission met with Papuan journalists and media activists who described an atmosphere of surveillance and intimidation, as well as claims of security agents posing as journalists. The mission also heard about challenges to freedom of expression more broadly across the country. Continued violence against the media and the failure to bring perpetrators to justice fuels further attacks, and leads to self-censorship. The digital space is an emerging front line for the media; meanwhile the Electronic Information and Transactions Law and the broader Criminal Code are being abused to silence critical voices.

Following the first visit to Indonesia in December 2014, the IPMI released key recommendations to address the areas of concern. The recommendations noted significant problems, and that ongoing cooperation between State institutions, journalists and civil society is needed in order to resolve them and to establish a robust environment for freedom of expression and media development based on human rights.

This year, the IPMI has issued further statements, calling for action to support media freedom in Indonesia. In June, the IPMI issued a statement calling for an end to restrictions on journalists covering Papua, following the announcement by President Widodo on May 10, and announcing his intention to end long-standing restrictions on foreign reporting in Papua and West Papua.  In September, the IPMI issued a statement calling on the Indonesian government to reopen the investigation into the death of Indonesian journalist, Fuad Muhammad Syafruddin (Udin). Two decades on from Udin’s murder, no one has been convicted.

Human Rights Watch released Something to Hide? Indonesia's Restrictions on Media Freedom and Rights Monitoring in Papua, which documents the access restrictions on media in Papua. This report based on interviews with 107 journalists, editors, publishers, NGO representatives, and academics and it shows that access restrictions are deeply ingrained, that parts of the government are strongly resisting change, and that a genuine opening of the provinces will require more sustained and rigorous follow-through by the Jokowi administration. 

Earlier today, November 13, two British journalists, Neil Bonner and Becky Prosser, were released from Batam prison after they were found guilty of violation Indonesian immigration law on October 3. The pair were arrested on May 29 in Batam in north-western Indonesia, and after spending three and a half months under house arrest were moved to Batam prison. Following their trial on September 29, they were sentenced to two and half months for the violation, and released today due to time already served.

In a statement to the IFJ upon their return to England, Prosser and Bonner said: “It is clear to us, after being jailed for carrying out our work, that the Indonesian authorities can and will attempt to punish journalists who seek out the wrong kind of stories; stories that embarrass, stories that expose and stories that hold those in power to account. Throughout our detention there were clear messages that we were being held become we had ‘upset’ the wrong people and they were being allowed to abuse the legal system to retaliate against us. We believe this kind of hostility towards journalists is disastrous for Indonesia as a democratic state. Indonesia journalists are themselves most vulnerable to the misuse of oppressive laws.”

“The Indonesia people should be able to rely on a free press to inform and empower and so we hope that President Widodo will stay true to his commitment to protect press freedoms in Indonesia and make it a safer place for journalists to carry out their work,” said Prosser and Bonner.

The IPMI said in a statement today: “In a region where the press is under sustained attack, Indonesia has a leadership role to play in defending media freedoms,” the mission said.

“There has been little demonstrable progress following the recommendations offered by the mission a year ago and despite significant interventions by local civil society organisations. The government of President Widodo should do more to advance media freedom and protect journalists,” said the mission. 

Jane Worthington, Director of the IFJ Asia Pacific, who represented the IFJ on the mission said: “President Widodo sent a strong message on media freedom when he said access to Papua was open. We have welcomed that announcement and we are happy that the government is responsive to these issues. Papua has been left behind all other parts of Indonesia and needs cooperation between local and central government, immigration, military and police to fully convey Jokowi’s intention.” 

“We join the IPMI is calling for action to heed the concerns of media freedom across the country. Indonesia has an opportunity to be a leader of press freedom and journalist safety in the region, but the government must take action to earn this position,” said the IFJ.

The Mission will publish a report of its findings and recommendations by the end of November

For the full IPMI statement click here.  

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 139 countries

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