Journalists Charged, Media Independence at Risk in Papua

Editorial independence and journalist safety are at risk in Papua, says the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), after 50 people violently attacked Timika Pos journalists and other employees, in Mimika, Iwan, Papua, Indonesia, during a strike over the appointment of the chief editor.

According to IFJ affiliate, Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI), on April 23, 2006, a strike organised by Timika Pos workers was stopped by a group of approximately 50 assailants wielding knives from Golkar, Indonesia's largest political party. The workers were terrorised and intimidated by the attackers, even after they attempted to explain that the strike was related to internal organisational matters.

The paper’s employees reported they repeatedly requested assistance from the Mimika Baru police station, only 250 metres away, but that police did not make serious efforts to respond.

However, rather than charge the attackers, on April 28, 2006, police arraigned two journalists, Edi Pratomo Cahyono and Marthen Joweni, on suspicion of violation of Articles 170 and 406 of the Indonesian Penal Code, regarding destruction of property.

Both are facing up to five years in prison.

Timika’s employees were protesting the appointment of Baharudin, managing chairperson of the Golkar Party in Mimika County as the new chief editor of the Timika Pos, journalists are concerned the appointment of the new editor could reduce the newspaper’s political independence.

“The independence of the media and the safety of journalists are vital issues for Papua,” said IFJ president Christopher Warren.

“I urge the Indonesian Government and the Mimika police to drop the charges against Cahyono and Marthen and for both parties to work towards a peaceful resolution of this dispute,” said Warren.

This is especially relevant in light of the continuing ban on foreign media in the province. The ban has prevented any foreign journalist from having official access to the region, severely restricting the media’s ability to tell the West Papua story.

The IFJ supports AJI’s recommendation for legal action to be taken against those responsible for the attack on the Timika Pos journalists and calls for the dropping of all charges against the two journalists given that the right to strike is protected by law.

“An independent and free media is essential to ensure democracy,” said Warren.

For more information please contact IFJ Asia Pacific +61 2 9333 0919

The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in over 110 countries