22 Nov 2013

Foreign journalists still facing hurdles to access Papua region

6:39 pm on 22 November 2013

Journalists in Indonesia have called on the Government to clarify rules for journalists wanting to visit the provinces of Papua and West Papua.

While the Governor of Papua this year said the region's doors were open, many foreign journalists report a different story.

Karen Abplanalp spoke to journalists and members of parliament in Indonesia.

Indonesian authorities have a "clearing house" in Jakarta where all foreign journalists must apply to have access to Papua. They usually face long delays, making it impossible to respond to current events, and often many are turned down. The President of the Alliance of Independent Journalists, Eko Maryadi, says the Government wants to avoid the international attention that helped Timor-Leste gain independence.

"EKO MARYADI: If this current government wants to be called democratic and transparent then I think there is nothing to worry about. Papuan people should be treated fairly and similarly to other Indonesians. So if you ask about what should be changed, they have to change their mindset, and then they have to change their system, how they handle the foreign media."

An Indonesian parliamentarian, Eva Sundari, says she was surprised to hear foreign journalists were banned, and the chief of the military assured her Papua was as free as other regions.

EVA SUNDARI: Why if you have freedom for press for Indonesian journalists, but not for foreign journalists, what is the point here? Is there anything you want to hide from foreigners? I cannot accept this because if we employ a democracy it must be all over Indonesia at the same time.

Ms Sundari, who is a member of the Human Rights and Security Committee, says the country has a broader human rights problem. She says having foreign media in the country is essential to ensure next year's national elections are truly democratic. Eko Maryadi says the Government is within its rights to regulate who is coming in and out of the country, but it should take a new approach and make its rules more clear.

EKO MARYADI: I mean to let a foreign journalist come, all they have to do is make a regulation - what a foreign journalist can do and what he cannot do.

A former Chief Editor of the Jakarta Post, Endy Bayuni, says the Government must look at problems from the inside rather than worry about outside impressions.

ENDY BAYUNI: If there is a problem in Papua this is mostly because of mismanagement and misrule on the part of Indonesia in Papua. We mishandled Timor-Leste badly but we have not learned the lessons of Timor-Leste. We seem to be repeating the mistakes in Timor-Leste in preventing justice to the Papuan people

A Papuan journalist, Victor Mambor, says government officials recently abandoned a meeting with the Indonesian Press Council because the council chair was not present.

Karen Abplanalp was in Indonesia courtesy of the Asia New Zealand Foundation.