Jakub Fabian Skrzypski, a Polish citizen, was officially a suspect of treason and smuggler of firearms and ammunition for the Free Papua separatist group since August 26, 2018. This suspicion was made according to witness testimony, short messages on cell phones and shooting exercises video. Skrzypski who entered Indonesia using a tourist visa is believed to have long been in a relationship with the separatist group hiding in Papua New Guinea and had discussed arms sales. After a long silence, the Polish Foreign Ministry finally responded to the charge of treason against Skrzypski and claimed that his country would cooperate with Indonesia to handle this case.
Based on information provided by the Police Headquarters Public Relations Division, Skrzypski is actually a freelance journalist. Although his arrival did not use a work visa, Skrzypski came to Indonesia is said specifically to have coverage of the Armed Criminal Group. The arrest of Skrzypski was also accompanied by the arrest of several Papuans separately.
Head of the Indonesian National Police Headquarters Information Bureau Dedi Prasetyo revealed that Skrzypski knew about the separatist group from Facebook. At that time, Skrzypski offered his expertise to make documentation. The police also monitored Skrzypski’s conversation with the separatist group on Twitter. According to Prasetyo, Skrzypski was the first to take the initiative to offer his assistance to the separatist group. Later on, the groups then requested Skrzypski to do the coverage.
This coverage was intentionally carried out at the request of the separatist group, which was directed to highlight the actions of the Indonesian security forces that were considered excessive. The results of the coverage are expected to become viral after being thrown into social media. News and pictures will also be sold to any foreign media interested in Skrzypski’s coverage. The aim is to build the issue of West Papua separatism becoming increasingly large in the international media.
However, before Skrzypski coverage is done, the Police had detained him for allegedly smuggling firearms and ammunitions. This sudden detaining had stirred a lot of voices from international media. APNews has written about him as a tourist but then explained how Indonesia has banned a lot of foreign journalists from entering Papua and West Papua (August 29, 2018). Stephen Wright from Associated Press has written about Skrzypski as “an idealistic tourist with no money to his name” and that his case is actually “very weak” (September 24, 2018), instead of calling him “a journalist”.
TAPOL, a human rights organization, defended Skrzypski’s arrival in West Papua and called him a tourist who carelessly applied in conflict areas. They also mentioned that Skrzypski had a tendency to go to dangerous areas in various parts of the world. This was supported by a statement from a friend of Skrzypski who stated that he is an explorer, likes extreme things, has a high spirit of learning other languages and cultures, and is also interested in humanitarian issues.
Skrzypski’s background story has actually strengthens the notion that Skrzypski did have a lot of experience in helping various separatism issues around the world to rise to the international world. In addition, this also shows the obsession of the separatist groups of Papua Liberation Movement to raise issues globally in order to get a lot of support.
Regardless of Skrzypski’s tendency and however TAPOL calls this an unjust act, the Indonesian National Police has inaugurated Skrzypski as a suspect. This arrest is not something that is done arbitrarily but is a follow-up of the evidence that already exists. Skrzypski also used the Embassy consular service to help him get legal counsel, a translator, and as a median in his communication with the Indonesian Police. Calling Skrzypski as a mere “careless tourist” seemed to underestimate the ability of the Indonesian Police investigators. Moreover, his “careless” actions threatened him with life imprisonment based on law in Indonesia.
It is also unfortunate that a lot of foreign media jumping into the wagon of blaming Indonesia’s “conservative action” against travellers and media to visit Papua. Because if they took time to look for the facts, President Jokowi has been opening the door for foreign media to visit Papua and West Papua since 2015. Indonesia has also been promoting Papua for tourist visit a lot lately. However, Papua and West Papua are still in the state of conflict until today. Tourists should take a lot of precautions before they visit; it is for their own good and their own safety. Instead of writing news only through foreign eyes, it is better if foreign media also interview local sources to get more perspectives. Thus, the media can maintain the balance and neutrality of the news they write.