Police Protect Papua Reporter After Receiving Death Threat

Police Protect Papua Reporter After Receiving Death Threat

, 13 August 2010


Merauke, Papua. Police in Merauke, Papua, have tightened security for a journalist who received a death threat just a day after another reporter was found dead. Both had been covering the upcoming district election.

Lala, from the Papua Daily Star newspaper, reportedly found a bloodstained letter on her porch after returning home from evening prayers on Saturday, said Amri, her editor.

The letter read: “Remember, we’re not playing around with our threats. We know that the police are looking for the perpetrators. Sorry, we’re not dawdling. You die!”
Amri said Lala then reported the incident to police, who took her into protective custody in preparation for sending her to the provincial capital, Jayapura, “as she’s still gripped by fear.”

However, no seats were available on any Sunday flights, and Lala remains in protective custody in Merauke.

The threat comes after Friday’s discovery of the body of Ardiansyah Matra’is, a journalist for Merauke TV, who was found in the Gudang Arang River in Merauke two days after he had been reported missing.

Ardiansyah worked as a stringer for national broadcaster ANTV and as a reporter for Papua’s Rajawali daily before joining Merauke TV.

The cause of death has not been determined because his family was reluctant to give permission for an autopsy, Merauke Police Chief Adj. Comr. Joko Prihadi said.

Rajawali editor-in-chief Jojo said journalists in Merauke had recently received a barrage of threats, likely linked to the election for district head on Aug. 8.

He said one text message read: “To cowardly 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.”

Victor Mambor, chairman of the Papua chapter of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), said the perpetrators seemed to be savvy enough to keep changing the way they sent their messages so that police could not easily trace them.

“If the situation remains like this until the regional elections, then no journalist will feel safe enough to stay on and report on the elections.

“This would definitely be a blow to the democratization process here.”

Papua Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Wahyono said the police were taking the reports from the targeted journalists “very seriously,” and were offering round-the-clock protection for individuals deemed most at risk.

“The press is our partner, so we want to see this case resolved,” he said.

He declined to confirm whether the threats were linked to the upcoming polls, saying only that an “intensive investigation in that direction” was underway.

AJI advocacy coordinator Margiono called on the police to thoroughly investigate the threats.

“We hope the police will abide by their promise to resolve the case and protect our colleagues in Papua,” he told the Jakarta Globe on Sunday.

Press Council member Agus Sudibyo called the spate of threats and intimidation regrettable.

“This has become a serious problem for press freedom in Indonesia since it’s happened several times now this year,” he said.