West Papua Background

a database for journalists


This section asks the question:

How is this situation maintained?

This is a question that baffles many when they read about the human rights abuses happening in the West Papua region. The answer to this question is not straight forward. This website does not give a straight and complete answer to how this continues to happen, but it presents the different frameworks that could lead to this situation. The information is a combination of treaties and sanctions that are in place in Indonesia, it also provides links for further information in each area.

International Treaties                                      Lombok Treaty                                Red Cross                                       Foreign Media

International Treaties

The first is a table showing the various international treaties signed by Indonesia and its neighbouring states. The information is sourced from the Amnesty International Report 2012.

Click here for more information about the International Criminal Court and the Rome Statute

The Lombok Treaty

The Lombok Treaty was signed in November of 2006, following a diplomatic crisis where Australia accepted 43 West Papuan asylum seekers. The security treaty covers areas of cooperation including defence, law enforcement, counter-terrorism, intelligence, maritime security, aviation safety, and ‘bilateral nuclear cooperation for peaceful purposes.

However the most important aspect, for the context of West Papua is the Article 2, point 2: “Mutual respect and support for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, national unity and political independence of each other, and also non-interference in the internal affairs of one another”

To read the treaty in its entirety here is the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade site about the Lombok Treaty.

Articles criticising the Lombok Treaty – Lombok: Our Promise to Say Nothing by Kayt Davies

   – The Lombok Treaty: Devil in the Detail by Hugh White

The Red Cross

The Red Cross were forced to close their office in the West Papua province in 2009. The Indonesian Red Cross visit the area, however the International committee of the Red Cross are still banned. This is problematic as NGO’s are therefore not able to independently scrutinize events happening in West Papua.

Facebook group: Give the International Red Cross Full Access to West Papua.

Journalists and Foreign Media

Foreign media, along with human rights observers and NGO’s, are heavily restricted from entering the West Papuan province by Indonesian authorities. Foreign journalists must be pre-approved under a slow bureaucratic process by the Ministry of Information.

Image: Malcolm Evans/PJR

Pacific Media Centre and Pacific Journalism Review released a status report in 2011 about Pacific Media Freedom. Click here to read the report, pages 177 to 181 are specifically about West Papua.

The report describes the media situation in West Papua as the most serious case of media freedom violation in the pacific.

The table below, created by the Pacific Media Centre, shows the state of Pacific Media Freedom in July 2011
 Key:√=Yes X= No, otherwise number indicates the value.TV= Television, R=Radio, O=Online, P=Public, C=Commercial. Countries list the 16 Islands Forum (PIF) member nations, including military ruled Fiji, which is currently suspended. Also listed are the French territories in the South Pacific and the current and former Indonesian Pacific colonies. Media groups are: AJI (Alliance of Independent Journalists, Indonesia), JAWS (Journalism Association of Western Samoa); MASI (Media Association of Solomon Islands); MAV (Media Association Blong Vanuatu), and PMC/PMW (Pacific Media Centre and Pacific Media Watch). In West Papua, under Indonesian law makar (subversion) is also use repressively against journalists as well as criminal libel. The Papuan press is also regularly labelled as “pro-separatist”, a significant threat against journalists seen to be giving too much coverage to self-determination sentiment.

© Pacific Media Centre

However; Information and reports from the region are made possible by the rise of Citizen Journalists.

The West Papua Media Alerts  is a vital project that trains and helps citizen journalists in West Papua.
By training citizen journalists, WPMA are able to bypass the foreign media blackout. The website reports the latest independently verifiable news from West Papua.

From the WPMA website:
Partly in response to this danger and partly to give local journalists a voice globally, West Papua Media (WPMA or WestPapuaMedia.Info) was started. It aims to provide a professional service to international media covering West Papua,ensuring high quality, verifiable reporting gets into the international media, directly from the ground, and not from those who seek to distort the truth of daily experience in Papua.  By reporting Papuan campaigns to end human rights abuses and bringing these unreported Papuan issues to the front page, we hope to hold the abusers to account. With an ever-growing stable of committed and disparate voices from citizen media to professional journalists, West Papua Media is proud and excited to be part of this movement.

Undercover; Some mainstream media journalists have on occasion gone undercover to report from the province, with the help of fixers provided by WPMA.
ABC’s 730 report ran a two-part report from West Papua in August 2012:

Part One: Rare Look Inside of West Papua Independence Movement

Part Two: Australia Faces Link to West Papua Torture