The Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD), an international network of media assistance groups, is drawing attention to the Indonesian government’s policy to restrict foreign journalists from covering Papua. This concern is related to Indonesia’s appointment as the host country for World Press Freedom Day in 2017.
“Papua is actually one of the issues that is on the list of issues that could be addressed, in which all access of foreign reporters should be better. Actually, it’s very interesting that local authorities are more nervous about journalism than authorities at the central government,” GFMD chairman Leon Willems said after the opening of the 2016 Jakarta World Forum for Media Development at the Nusantara Multimedia University in South Tangerang, Banten, on Tuesday.
He said the presence of journalists in a country or area is important to help the public in carrying out social control. In a democratic system, public control through media is a fundamental prerequisite, he went on.
Speaking on restrictions for the presence of journalists in a country or area, Willems said: “[With such restrictions] you cannot have accountability, you cannot have human rights, press freedom, freedom of expression or citizen rights to express themselves.”
Willems further said international cooperation and pressures against restrictions of journalists to ruling governments could become an important part of efforts to realize the freedom of the press.
He referred to the arrest of Khadija Ismayilova, a Free Europe Radio journalist who also worked for Azerbaijan Liberty Radio. She was arrested by her country’s government in December 2014 for airing corruption-related news involving Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev’s family. Since her release in the middle of 2016, Ismayilova had not been permitted to travel abroad until today.
“If people are held in custody for their opinion, because they research stories that the government was corrupt or that the government does not respond to the corruption but acts against the messenger, this is where I think the issues of justice for journalists are extremely important. If you encourage journalists, you also encourage human rights,” said Willems.
In the event, Indonesian Press Council chairman Yoseph “Stanley” Adi Prasetyo said the organizing of the 2016 Jakarta World Forum for Media Development, which was attended by at least 300 international guests, was a preparation ahead of the celebration of the 2017 World Press Freedom Day.
"Journalists from several countries have found it’s not easy for them to enter Indonesia. If they can now enter countries like Ukraine, Pakistan and Nigeria, which were previously quite restrictive, it shows that Indonesia is currently carrying out open politics,” said Stanley.