Killing of a journalist in Papua explained as suicide by local police

INDONESIA: Killing of a journalist in Papua explained as suicide by local police
AHRC, 8 September 2010

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission has been informed about the killing of a journalist and human rights defender in Merauke, Papua, Indonesia. Mr. Ardiansyah Matra'is (25 years old) was found dead on July 30, 2010 floating naked in the Maro River after he disappeared two days previously. Several journalists received intimidating SMS (short message service) in the weeks before the killing. Unofficial police reports have indicated that his ribs were broken and his lungs filled with water.

CASE NARRATIVE: (according to information received from Foker LSM - NGO Forum for Coorperation in Papua)

In the late evening of July 28, 2010 Mr. Matra'is was reported missing after his wife had not seen him returning home all day. After the police was informed, a special team searched for him for two days. They had only found his helmet and motorbike parked near the Waliwali Tujuh Bridge on the Maro River. At 7 am on July 30, 2010, fishermen found his naked corpse floating near the Dermaga Gudang Arang Warehouse, Merauke. The body was brought to the hospital and identified by his family. The first formal autopsy result did not acknowledge any signs of violence while according to an informal notice from the District Police the lungs were filled with water and two ribs were broken which indicates the use of physical violence. The regional police announced the conduct of a second autopsy at a different location, to which several of Mr. Matra'is organs were sent.

The bridge where Mr. Matra'is motorbike was found is a popular place where locals frequently go for recreation to enjoy the scenery. Mr. Matra'is was known to have often visited for taking photos near the bridge where his motorbike was found. The Police chief of Merauke, Djoko AKBP Prihadi SH concluded this case to be a suicide based on interviews with the victim's family and colleagues and the evidence on the bridge and the first autopsy report by the local district hospital. According to the police the suicide would have been committed as a result of the stress that he must have experienced from the daily work as a journalist.

Journalist work and intimidation (according to information received from the local journalists community)

Mr. Matra'is had been working as a journalist for several years including for the national private TV channel ANTV. He joined, a Papuan civil society media in May 2009. After he published a video about illegal timber mining in Keerom, several journalists received intimidating messages. Following the increasing threats Mr. Matra'is temporarily left Jayapura, his place of work at that time. He continued to feel intimidated and often reported to have been followed by unidentified persons. Colleagues reported that he had received SMS threatening the security of his children. Months later Mr. Matra'is worked with a local TV station in Merauke.

Journalists are reported to have frequently received threats in the period before Mr. Matra'is' killing. The threats are allegedly related to local elections in which a large scale food estate project with international investors became the subject of controversy. For example, a fellow journalist received the following message, "To the coward journalists: never play with fire if you don't want to be burned. If you still want to make a living on this land, don't do weird things. We have data on all of you and be prepared for death."

Please write letters to the concerned authorities below requesting them to conduct a thorough investigation into the victim's death. The intimidation against other journalists should also be investigated and pursued.

The AHRC has also written letters to the Special Rapporteurs on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression for their intervention.