Fight for Journalists’ Access to Papua By: Aliansi Jurnalis Independen, Indonesia (AJI)
Press freedom in West Papua has been a constant struggle ever since Indonesia invaded and colonised the province from the former Dutch East Indies in 1961 and gaining administrative control from the UN in 1963.
As recently as September 2014, two French journalists from TV Arte, were arrested and detained for what Papuan police said were violations to their immigration visas. The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) reported that they were arrested because they were journalists, proving a lack of openness of Papua to the world.
Viktor Mambor, the current Editor – in – Chief of the Jayapura based Tabloid Jubi is the head of AJI’s Papua chapter. Having reported in Papua since 1999, Mr Mambor has become an expert and key speaker in various discussions and seminars surrounding the plight of Papua and its journalists under Indonesian occupation.
“I experienced various kinds of violations in Papua and I face weapons at many times,” he said. “Right now, violence over journalist [in Papua] is conducted by civilians, not by state/government anymore.”
However, Mambor says the government still spies on journalists and has agents funnelling information to relevant agencies. “We actually know which one of them who are government’s agent and who aren’t,” he said. “But, since they have also press card as we do, there are nothing we can do.”
Together with AJI Indonesia, Mambor has developed grassroots journalism in West Papua while supporting the development of local NGOs and activists in their media and communication skills. His main priority however is to the fight for open access for all journalists to enter Papua, calling for the abolition of the special press visa that is rarely issued.
“As journalists who are bound by Press Law, we use different ways now; by delivering our aspirations for Papua more elegantly,” he said. “We conduct meetings with various stakeholders to outline our goals and aspirations. We still do demonstration though.”
Mambor hopes his struggle for the media’s open access to Papua, especially for foreign journalists, will succeed in the near future, sighting Indonesia’s wish to successfully deliver its peace message to the world. “Papua has to be treated similarly as other provinces because Papua is part of Indonesia,” he said.“[Currently] there are too many restrictions for foreign journalists to enter Papua.”
On a local level, Mambor says it requires more effort to be a journalist in Papua. Transportation infrastructure is very limited, to reach locations in the mountains other remote areas; he must often travel by foot.
“There are so many obstacles when you work in conflict areas, I seldom experience gun threat,” he said. “Papua is too large, so it is very difficult to monitor the whole area.”
Finding capable journalists to develop and expand media content is something Mambor says is a constraint on the growth of Papuan mass media. “Mass media in Papua mostly [can’t] ‘walk’, it [can] only ‘stand’,” he said.