The freedom of foreign media to cover West Papua issue is once again reheated by separatist groups. With claims such as human right violations, this issue has been used a tool for these groups to seek international attention.
In May 2015, President Jokowi announced that foreign journalists were free to visit West Papua just like any other region in Indonesia. It is required for foreign journalists to complete their Visit and VISA Permits.
Then is it true that journalists are prohibited from entering Papua? In fact, in 2013, there were 354 journalist visas to Indonesia, 28 of which were to Papua and West Papua. in 2014 27 journalists came to Papua and only 5 of them were refused due to administrative incompleteness. While in 2015, all journalists applications were accepted.
Recently, Agustinus Makabori, the Head of Stay Permit Department of Immigration Office Jayapura, said 176 foreign citizens extend their visit permit from January to August 2018. According to him, the Immigration Office Jayapura has issued 74 permits, six ITAP (Izin Tinggal Permanen or Permanent Stay Permit) and 206 ITAS (Izin Tinggal terbatas or Limited Stay Permit) extensions.
Some journalists who have come to Indonesia quoted from www.hrw.org were as follows:
Marie Dhumieres, a Jakarta-based French correspondent, got a police permit to go to Papua in September 2015.
Cyril Payen, the Bangkok-based correspondent for France 24 television
Johnny Blades and Koroi Hawkins of Radio New Zealand in 2015
Morgan Mellish, Australian journalist with ABC Jakarta correspondent Geoff Thompson and The Australian’s Jakarta correspondent Stephen Fitzpatrick in 2006.
Kresna Astraatmadja, an Indonesian television producer who worked on a French reality show filmed on a small island near Raja Ampat, Papua.
Hamish Macdonald of Australia’s The Saturday Paper trip in 2014 with an Associated Press correspondent
Mark Davis, correspondent for Australia’s SBS News in 2014
One of the journalists, Cyril Payen was even surprised at the ease when registering his visa. He said that the Indonesian Embassy in Bangkok processed his application for a journalist visa to visit in 15 days and that his reporting trip occurred without any harassment or interference.
“They gave me a press visa and the embassy said you don’t need to go to police, or go to immigration [when you are in Papua].” Whether I was lucky or not, I don’t know. They really opened up. [The embassy staffer] said, “Just go, there are no more restrictions,” said Cyril Payen.
The Origins of Restrictions on Foreign Journalists
Indonesian government restrictions on foreign media go back to the country’s first president, Sukarno (1945-1966), who required all prospective foreign correspondents to acquire journalist visas before traveling to Indonesia.
While the rigor and reach of the restrictions, in Papua as elsewhere in Indonesia, have varied with political developments in the country, Papua has been deemed off-limits to journalists more often than almost any other region.
Concerns with the role of foreign journalists in Papua existed even before Indonesia took control of the region in 1963. When making a speech supporting Indonesian control over West New Guinea in Yogyakarta on May 4, 1963, Sukarno lambasted “foreign journalists who wrote that West Irian people dislike Indonesia, that they prefer the Dutch.” Sukarno said that those journalists were “arbitrary in their writing.”
Indonesian officials were particularly suspicious of the intentions of Australian journalists seeking to report from Papua. Former Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas (1988-1999) accused Australian media of being overtly sympathetic to Papuan independence in their reporting on the region in the 1960s:
The Australian press in general was in favor of the Dutch position in Papua, and therefore many of them very often wrote articles that were critical of Indonesia and damaging of the Indonesian position and many of them had to pay with occasionally being declared persona non grata.
The government further tightened its access restrictions to Papua by foreign correspondents in the run-up to and during the 1969 Act of Free Choice. The Indonesian government brought dozens of foreign journalists to Papua in a tightly controlled press tour in 1968 in which each journalist was accompanied by two military minders.
Those restrictions prompted the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club to lodge a formal protest with the Ministry of Information.] The Indonesian government limited foreign correspondents’ access to Papua to tightly controlled “guided tours organized through the military,” which intimidated potential sources into silence, according to journalist complaints. In his book By-Lines, Balibo, Bali Bombings: Australian Journalists in Indonesia, Ross Tapsell, noting the impact of those restrictions after 1969, concluded: “Papua was effectively sealed off from the outside world.”
During the “New Order” government of President Suharto (1965-1998), visas for foreign correspondents specifically excluded their access to “outer regions” of the country including East Timor, Papua and Aceh. Access to those regions required a surat jalan (travel document) provided by either a high-ranking government official or the Ministry of Information.
During the 1960s and 1970s, foreign correspondents permitted access to Papua and other “outer region” conflict areas complained of the military’s “tactics of intimidating journalists.”
At some point during the New Order period, the process for vetting journalists seeking access to Papua was formally centralized in the clearing house described in the following section.
During the New Order era, journalists’ freedom was almost entirely restricted to both foreign journalists and domestic journalists. The collapse of the New Order brought fresh air to Indonesian journalism; many improvements made by the Government. Since the Reformation Era to date, the press in Indonesia truly enjoys their freedom; including foreign press.
Restriction in West Papua for Journalist
The Indonesian government is very strict in giving foreign journalists permission to West Papua considering this region is very vulnerable to separatist movements, which demand the release of West Papua and endanger the sovereignty of Republic Indonesia. However, if you are a journalist who does not have political and economic interests, you can visit West Papua. Following are the procedures for visiting journalists in West Papua (taken from the Istanbul Consulate):
Foreign journalists with intention to do news coverage, news photo, or other form of journalist visits in Indonesia must first apply for a permit before applying journalist visa.
APPLYING JOURNALIST PERMIT
Submit an official letter with company letterhead, addressed to the Consul General of the Republic of Indonesia. The letter should state the purpose, place and date of the coverage, plan of publication and release, and name, address, and contact number of local partner/media colleague in Indonesia (must be an Indonesian citizen).
On the Indonesia Ministry of Foreign website kemlu.go.id, look for your country’s consul general. For example if you are from Istanbul, then you can register through this link https://www.kemlu.go.id/istanbul/en/Pages/Journalist-Visit.aspx
Provide your company profile.
Provide list of interviewee or reference of the coverage and approval letter from the interviewee.
Provide sample of previous works on Indonesia (if any). Please provide the link or send it in a media (DVD or USB storage).
Submit all documents in softcopy form (PDF or JPEG) to [email protected] if you are from Istanbul
The size of combined documents must not exceed 10 MB. Send into separate email if exceed 10 MB.
The submitted documents are subject to review from the Consulate General of Indonesia in Istanbul and, if necessary, the Consulate may conduct an interview with the applicant.
The reviewed documents will be submitted to related institutions in Jakarta, who will decide on the status of permit application.
Upon receiving information of the permit application status, the Consulate will notify the applicant. If the application is approved, the Consulate must first receive formal permit approval and visa authorization from Jakarta before the applicant can initiate the journalist visa application procedure at the Consulate General of Indonesia in Istanbul. Please note, to avoid any delay, the applicant’s local partner may process the visa authorization to the Ministry of Law and Human Rights in Jakarta.
Wellington. (2015) No Genocide in West Papua Retrieved from kemlu.go.id https://www.kemlu.go.id/wellington/Documents/No%20Genocide%20in%20West%20Papua.pdf
NN. (2015) Indonesia’s Restrictions on Media Freedom and Rights Monitoring in Papua Retrieved from hrw.org https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/11/10/something-hide/indonesias-restrictions-media-freedom-and-rights-monitoring-papua
NN. (2018) KJRI Istanbul Retrieved from kemlu.go.id
NN. (2018, Sept 4) Hundreds of foreign citizens extend stay permits since January 2018 Retrieved from tabloidjubi.com https://tabloidjubi.com/eng/hundreds-of-foreign-citizens-extend-stay-permits-since-january-2018/