Papuan press facing threats and violence

Papuan press facing threats and violence
, 4 August 2010


Papuan journalists called on police Tuesday to thoroughly investigate acts of intimidation and violence against them, believed to be part of a campaign by candidates eliminated from the upcoming regional elections in Merauke.

Spokesman of the Papuan Journalist's Community, Eveerth Joumilena, said in Jayapura on Tuesday acts of terror threatened the country's press freedom.

"These acts of violence should be thoroughly investigated to ensure Papuan journalists can work free of threats made by those who do not want democracy to flourish in the province," he said.

The police, he said, suspected the acts of violence committed in Merauke had been conducted by the campaign team of a losing ticket.

If this is the case, Eveerth added, the case needed to be solved to discourage similar crimes being committed in other regional elections.

In Merauke, the police are currently investigating the death of Merauke TV journalist Ardiansyah Martais and death threats against another journalist, Lala Fakaubun.

Merauke Police have also questioned three other journalists, who claim to have also received threats against their lives.

Papua Police deputy chief, Brig. Gen. Arie Sulistyo met with the Alliance of Independent Journalists and Jayapura journalists on Tuesday and said the police had deployed antiterror squad Densus 88 and enlisted the help of IT experts to trace cell phones used to send the threats.

The police, he said, were also waiting for the results of Ardiansyah's autopsy. The Press Council has warned that violence and threats against journalists in different regions are a real threat against Indonesia's press freedoms.

Chief of the council's commission on the enforcement of press ethics, Agus Sudibyo, urged President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to pay attention to the case, saying the state has an obligation to ensure press freedoms in the country.

Separately, in Manggarai regency, East Nusa Tenggara, three journalists were reportedly beaten by dozens of employees of Beo Kina community health center in Tenggara Timur district.

The health center employees were infuriated by a report that made local headlines alleging that they had been failing to show up to work, putting people's lives at risk.

Chief of Manggarai Police, Adj. Sr. Comr. Hambali, said Tuesday the police were still investigating.

The three journalists - Ferdi Ambo, contributor for state run station TVRI, Melki Pantur from the Suara Flores weekly and Maksi M.D. from Sukses Indonesia tabloid - all suffered serious injuries in the attack.

It is the second case of restriction of press freedoms in East Nusa Tenggara this year after four journalists were in June threatened while covering a graft trial in Soe Court in Timor Tengah Selatan.