In the beginning of this new year, 2019, our team would like to wish you a peaceful and prosperous year ahead, as well as the years after.

During the whole 2018, there has been a sharp, and concerning difference of trends between local and international media who published contents regarding West Papua.

The local media were giving far more space to report on economy, development, and inspirational Papuan figures, while the international media have been focusing almost exclusively on the violence and negative sides of West Papuan issues, being heavily biased towards the causes of West Papuan armed separatist criminal group.

Creating journalism content on West Papuan topics is always a two-sided coin for writers, field reporters, even researchers and academics. While we have been, and will always be striving to provide insightful and unbiased analysis regarding West Papuan issues, the market for international media always respond differently. It is totally not surprising that the more controversial a content is, the more people consume that particular content. West Papua is no exception.

Top Local West Papua News: Economy & Religious Tolerance

Along this year, approximately 43,000 local news have been published so far. From the top 6 most viewed contents of the year, the absolute most viewed and shared was a story regarding the establishment of the first mosque in a remote area in West Papua. Two stories were about Joko Widodo, the president who currently pursues his second term. The other three were about Papuan economy and how Trans Papua road as a newly built infrastructure is contributive towards Papua.

(Image: Top 6 Most Viewed Local Content on West Papua)

The Difference With Global Trend

Meanwhile in 2017 (we are going to update you with the latest data really soon), there were 3,449 articles from foreign media published in the internet. The top three contributors are Associated Press (US based non-profit news platform), Radio New Zealand and Netscape (headquarters in Virginia, US). From those three platforms, there are negative trending themes such as “Indonesian security forces”, “gunmen”, “national liberation”, “attack”, and “death”.

Trending Theme on International News in 2017 on West Papua
(Reference: Meltwater, 2018)
(Image: Publication in foreign media regarding West Papua, 1-7th October 2018. Meltwater, 2018)

From those observation on the media title in the internet, we could see that there is an unbalanced condition from foreign journalist in looking at the West Papua issues. From the trending themes, we can see that the words of “attack”, “gunmen”, “national liberation” and “death” could bring terror and fear for the readers without them realizing it. Therefore, there is an indication that there might be a hidden interest in attacking Indonesian government by publishing various article with provocative title without knowing how it will support the separatist movement in the country.

Highlight of 2018: Democracy and Demonstrations

This does not mean that the local media are not reporting on demonstrations, or more importantly, the Nduga Massacre committed by the armed criminal separatists.Surely, the local media did not miss on reporting the December 1st and December 10th demonstration, the 20 construction workers killed by Egianus Kogoya and his armed criminal separatist groups, and other things regarding separatism.

However, it is important for the media to give a complete perspective for the general public, that chaos and politics are not the only things happening in Papua on day-to-day basis. Audience in Papua, and Indonesia in general, are also interested in how people in Papua are actually doing right now. They are interested in knowing the latest price of gas, or poultry. The latest schools and hospitals built in Bintuni. The words from Papuan students who went to top American colleges.

Selling Human Rights Issues to Western Audience

For those whose main business is creating content for the western audience in the US, Europe and Australia, human rights and environmental issues are the bread and butter. Understandably, those two issues gain more viewers than other local Papuan issues which the global audience might not understand or care about.

Ironically, a content regarding West Papua should appropriately give correct portrayal of West Papua and its people first, rather than entertaining the curiosity of international audience.

Peace Journalism

Indonesian think-tank, LIPI, believed that peace journalism is the key bring a better social-political atmosphere in Papua. LIPI in their research had shown that social media has become a tunnel of radical separatist ideas, often packaged by a lot of hoaxes, false narratives and edited photos to get more views and engagements. Unfortunately, social media such as Facebook and Twitter are the main tools for Papuan figures, especially the armed separatist criminal group, to shape the mindset of global audience.

The media are heavily hampered by this social media radicalization. The hoaxes and false narratives create strong demand for the media to join the bandwagon and sell negativity in order to get better engagement numbers, more YouTube viewers, more clicks, and so on.

In the case of West Papua issues, many scholars explained how journalists have play a significant role in reporting conflict. In his research, Aslam (2010) has stated clearly that the framing and agenda setting by the media, in terms of what makes the news, determines not only the process of public opinion-making; it can also reflect the personal perceptions and prejudices of journalists in interpreting the conflict situations.

As it mentioned earlier, the aim of this article is to promote peace journalism in order to support the development of West Papua region. By looking at the fact and numbers of article published, the media and journalist should immediately start to let go of their political and economic baggage in covering West Papuan issues.

Lack of Direct Reports from Local Media

Further, since our research reveals that majority of foreign media has published the negative yet unproven news for the Indonesian government in regards to the West Papuan issues; it is certain that the Indonesian government took the cautious way in dealing with foreign media. The international community might only know that the Indonesian government has close the access for foreign journalist. However, little did they know that it is not true that the Indonesian government has restricted the foreign journalist to cover Indonesia and West Papua issues.

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. In 2013, there were 354 journalist visas to Indonesia, 28 of which were to Papua and West Papua. While 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. Since West Papuan is widely known for its separatist movement, the Indonesian government are taking the alert on higher level in giving permission for the foreign journalist.

A better step for the foreign media to write trustworthy news is by having steady, local correspondence partners in Papua. An even better step for all of us would be to make international viewers more critical towards contents coming from the media.

It is true that there are armed separatist criminal groups in Papua. It is also true that there are ongoing process of Papuan human rights cases at court. Above all, West Papua is not an object for our media to write and sell. West Papua is a place in Indonesia, where real people live their real lives, and the media better write about them.