Indonesia urged to open West Papua to journalists

At the launch of its 2014 World Report on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch called on the government to lift the ban on foreign journalists entering the volatile provinces of Papua and West Papua.

The report details multiple acts of violence between state security forces and Free Papua Organization (OPM) activists that occurred in the two provinces last year that left at least 11 dead.

Speaking at the report’s launch in Jakarta, HRW Indonesia researcher Andreas Harsono said the police and military continued to commit human rights abuses with relative impunity in Papua.

In the last year, peaceful Papuan independence activists have been subjected to excessively violent — and sometimes fatal — treatment from state security forces, he said.

According to the New York-based organization, there are currently 70 Papuans in prison for their peaceful involvement in the Papuan independence movement, despite the government’s claims there are no political prisoners in Indonesian jails.

In his statement, Andreas called for the release of these political prisoners, as well as a group of Maluku activists imprisoned for peaceful dissent in the nearby Maluku islands.

HRW asked political parties running in the upcoming national elections to consider changing the policy of restricted access to Papua and West Papua for foreign journalists, questioning what the Indonesian government had to hide from the outside world.

In the past two years, just three international news organizations were granted access to the Papuan provinces under the watch of official minders.

International pressure is mounting for the government to open the doors to Papua, release political prisoners and put a stop to violent clashes between state security forces and suspected OPM rebels.

The European Parliament will met in Brussels today for a hearing on the human rights situation in Papua and West Papua.

Papuan activists scaled the wall of the Australian Consulate in Bali during the APEC Summit last year, when world leaders from around the Asia-Pacific region were in the country, in a bid to consult with leaders about their cause.

However, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott rejected their pleas and vowed instead to stand by the Indonesian government.