Wednesday, May 2, 2018



For over 50 years, the Indonesian government has systematically banned foreign media from reporting in West Papua. Local journalists are regularly arrested, tortured, and even killed. Those who gain access are heavily monitored, told what to report, and face strict punishment for non-compliance.

This year World Press Freedom Day 2018 falls on the 55th anniversary of the day Indonesia invaded and occupied West Papua in 1963. West Papuans call May 1st "The Day of Terror." Each year the Melanesian people of West Papua silently mourn the loss of their freedom as they are banned from publicly expressing their discontent. When they do organize public demonstrations, their voices are often met with brute force, prison, or worse. On May 1st in 2016 over 1000 West Papuan people, including children, were arrested for peacefully demonstrating.

This year the theme of #WPFD2018 is ‘Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law.’ We would like to highlight Indonesia’s effective media blackout in West Papua, and call on all journalists to please call for free and open access to West Papua to ensure the protection of local journalists and all media outlets.

In February 2018, BBC journalist Rebecca Henschke and her team were deported by the Indonesian government from West Papua because she "hurt soldiers feelings" by uploading photos of the situation on Twitter.

In 2014, French journalists Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat were arrested and jailed for 2 and a half months for reporting in West Papua.

In October 2015, after journalist Marie Dhumieres visited West Papua, three men who spoke to her were arrested and interrogated for 10 hours by the Indonesian police about her activities.

In 2016, journalist Cyril Payen found out that he was permanently banned from going to Indonesia, for making a documentary about West Papua in 2015.

In 2017, Al Jazeera journalist Jack Hewson, was about to go to West Papua to report on the situation but was banned from going there by the Indonesian military who accused him of "dangerous activities."

Two journalists Franck Escudie and Basile Longchamp were deported from West Papua and Indonesia on 17th March 2017 and have been banned from returning to Indonesia.

On May 1st 2017, 2 days before as Indonesia ironically hosted World Press Freedom Day, the Indonesian police arrested and tortured West Papuan journalist Yance Wenda, just for covering a peaceful demonstration.

THE PEOPLE’S PETITION In addition to journalists being banned in West Papua, all websites that advocate or speak about the issues of Independence or human rights abuses have also been subject to attack. Last year the global site for activism, Avaaz, was banned in Indonesia for hosting a petition calling for West Papua to be returned to the United Nations. Anyone caught signing the petition was threatened with arrest and a lengthy prison sentence for treason. Despite serious threats of punishment, an unprecedented 1.8 million West Papuans risked their anonymity and freedom by secretly providing their handwritten signatures. Their signatures represented over 70% of the Melanesian population in West Papua; making their achievement one of the most significant petitions of the century..


West Papua is the western half of the second largest island in the world. It is located just north of Australia. The Island of New Guinea is divided by an independent Papua New Guinea to the East and occupied West Papua to the west. West Papua is larger than France and rich in natural resources. It is home the largest gold mine, and and 5th largest copper mine, in the world. Since 1963 West Papua has been occupied and colonized by Indonesia. Over 500,000 indigenous Papuans have been killed. Papuans can be jailed for 15 years for raising their independence flag independence.

Although the people of West Papua have no geographical, ethnic, or cultural ties to Indonesia, Indonesia decided that they had a right to everything that formerly belonged to the Dutch. They began asserting authority over West Papua immediately after the Dutch government withdrew in 1962. Through U.S. led negotiations the Dutch and Indonesia signed The New York Agreement which included the infrastructure for a voting process known as the Act of Free Choice. What should have been a vote under U.N. supervision of 800,000,000 came down to 1,022 handpicked Papuans who were forced under the threat of violence to vote for Indonesian rule. The General Assembly ‘took note’ of the report of the UN Secretary-General but the UN General Assembly has never voted to approve the Act of Free Choice. In fact, there was strong opposition from Ghana, Senegal, Guyana and other African and Caribbean countries to the Indonesian takeover of West Papua. By 1969 West Papua was completely absorbed under Indonesian control. To this day the former Dutch colony of West New Guinea has never exercised its right of self-determination under international law.

The United Liberation Movement For West Papua (ULMWP) is comprised of the three main political independence movements seeking independence for West Papua. Their representation leads the call for an internationally-supervised vote on independence to rectify this historical injustice and end Indonesian colonial rule over West Papua.

In December 2015 Indonesian security forces broke up a peaceful meeting, fatally shot four men and wounded several others. In April-May 2016, nearly 2,000 Papuans were unlawfully arrested for demonstrating in support on the ULMWP. By the end of 2016, 8000 West Papuan people were arrested. Extra-judicial killings, torture and intimidation are institutionalized and daily occurrences. Discriminatory State practices have resulted in West Papua becoming the lowest human development index of any province in Indonesia, and the highest HIV and infant mortality rates. Human rights abuses are increasing. Children are being arrested, and dying of malnutrition and curable diseases.

We are deeply concerned about the on-going human rights abuses, and the alarming number of arbitrary arrests and torture of West Papuan citizens, peaceful protesters, and journalists. The Government of Indonesia has isolated West Papua by severely limiting freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of information.

Without intervention, there is a real threat that West Papuan people, and their lands, face extinction. Despite the powerful forces of oppression, the Papuan people continue to resist and fight for Merdeka: liberation and independence.

We must let foreign journalists in to tell West Papua’s story before it is too late

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