Indonesia: They protest over Papua, now police arrest them for treason

Seven Papuan students and Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua (FRI-West Papua) spokesperson Surya Anta were arrested by the Jakarta Police on Friday and Saturday and are currently being detained at the National Police’s Mobile Brigade (Mako Brimob) detention center in Depok, West Java.

Jakarta Legal Aid Society (LBH Jakarta) lawyer Nelson Simamora, who is representing those detained, identified the seven students to The Jakarta Post as Carles Kossay, Dano Tabuni, Ambrosius Mulait, Isay Wenda, Naliana Wasiangge, Wenebita Wasiangge and Norince Kogoya.

The first students arrested, Carles and Dano, were detained on Friday night at a Papuan student dorm in Depok.

Ambrosius and Isay were arrested on Saturday afternoon, after protesting over the arrests of Carles and Dano at the Jakarta Police headquarters in South Jakarta.

Naliana, Wenebita and Norince were arrested at a boarding house in South Jakarta on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Surya was arrested at the Plaza Indonesia shopping mall in Central Jakarta, also on Saturday night.

Jakarta Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Argo Yuwono confirmed to the Post that the police had arrested the seven students and Surya for allegedly threatening state security by committing treason in front of the State Palace in Central Jakarta and other places on Wednesday.

Surya and the students could be charged under articles 106 and 87 or 110 of the Criminal Code (KUHP) on treason and conspiracy to commit treason, Argo said.

The students had taken part in a demonstration in front of the State Palace on Wednesday, during which they and hundreds of other Papuan students demanded a referendum on Papuan self-determination while carrying banned Morning Star flags, a symbol of the Papuan independence movement.

A coalition of civil society organizations, which includes LBH Jakarta, denounced the arrests as a threat to democracy.

“Besides leading to further race discrimination, such actions may also exacerbate existing tensions and lead to an escalation that could put the safety of civilians in Papua and elsewhere further at stake,” the coalition said in a statement on Sunday.

The coalition demanded that police stop their “arbitrary arrests” and “uphold human rights principles” in dealing with Papuan students.

“We are concerned that the exaggerated measures being taken by the police will only worsen the ongoing situation regarding Papua,” the statement said. "

Karina M. Tehusijarana and Ardilla Syakriah

• The Jakarta Post / Jakarta / Sun, September 1, 2019 / 01:38 pm:

 Thousands sign online petition over internet block in Papua

Fajar Pebrianto, Jakarta – Thousands of people protested the internet blocking policy implemented by Communication and Informatics Ministry in Papua and West Papua. They demanded Minister Rudiantara reopen the network access by signing an online petition with a hashtag #NyalakanLagi or #KeepItOn on

“If you love Indonesia and Papua, let’s shout out #NyalakanLagi the internet in Papua and West Papua,” said Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet) executive director Damar Juniarto who started the petition on Wednesday, August 21.

As of Thursday, August 22, at 23:30 Jakarta time, nearly 4,937 people have signed the online petition.

The request emerged as a response to the ministry’s press release on the data block in the two provinces which was issued on the same day. The ministry claimed the policy aimed to expedite the recovery process of the security situation and public order in Indonesia’s eastern region.

The petition noted that the blocking policy restricted Papuan to obtain the truth of the conflict. This also violated the people’s rights to access real information as protected by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR) seconded Damar’s statement. The data access restriction is against the law and a form of authority abuse committed by Kominfo.

ICJR said that the government has the right to apply it as long as it meets the requirements; first, the country faces an emergency situation, and second, the President must officially declare the status through a Presidential Decree.

However, President Joko Widodo or Jokowi defended his ministry’s decision. “Yes, for the sake of the public interest and common good,” said the President in Bogor Presidential Palace, West Java, Thursday, August 22.

Today, August 23, a number of civil organizations will stage a rally in front of Kominfo building on Jalan Medan Merdeka Barat, Central Jakarta, urging the revocation of the internet blocking policy for Papua and West Papua.

• Tempo - August 23, 2019:

 Papuan students in Denpasar call for justice, end to discrimination against Papuans

Along with thousands of Indonesians who have taken part in protests throughout the country this week condemning mistreatment and racial abuse against Papuan citizens, dozens of college students in Bali took to the streets of Renon in Denpasar yesterday to demand justice and an end to discrimination against Papuans.

“We demand an end to discrimination and racist remarks towards Papuan students and people,” said Jeeno Dogomo, a spokesman for the protest in Denpasar, as reported by Tribun-Bali.

The participating students, who are reportedly members of the IMMAPA, an association of Papuan people and students, also demanded a thorough investigation of incidents that occurred in Surabaya and Malang last week that set off this week’s protests.

In Surabaya, authorities tear-gassed and detained 43 Papuan university students for allegedly desecrating the Indonesian flag, during which time they were reportedly pelted with racial abuse by authorities.

The incident prompted thousands to protest in major West Papuan and Papuan cities the next day, including in Manokwari, where protesters torched a local parliament building.

Since then, Papuans and fellow Indonesians in other cities across the archipelago have taken part in similar protests, including in the capital, Jakarta, and in Sorong, West Papua.

On Wednesday, Indonesia’s Ministry of Information and Communications (Kominfo) blocked internet access in Papua and West Papua, citing fears that fake news and offensive posts would spark more violent protests in the region.

In response, the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet) is pressing the Indonesian government to lift the ban, using the hashtag #KeepItOn on social media and calling on the public to protest the move.

“Blocking and restricting access to internet in Papua and West Papua will make it harder for people living outside of the two provinces to verify facts and what has happened [and] to check on the safety of friends and relatives,” SAFEnet Executive Director, Damar Juniarto, said in a press release.

Papua has long been a sensitive subject in Indonesia. Despite the abundant natural wealth in Papua and West Papua, both provinces remain among the poorest in the country.

The government maintains its sovereign rights to the region based on the controversial 1969 referendum – widely seen as a sham – in which only some 1,000 people were allowed to vote on whether they would stay a part of Indonesia on behalf of 800,000 other Papuans.

Since then, a decades-long insurgency movement has aimed to gain Papua’s independence from the archipelago nation. The recent incidents of racism have arguably generated powerful momentum for Papuans to call for the right to self-determination.

• Coconuts Bali - August 23, 2019:

 The internet shutdown in Papua threatens Indonesia’s democracy and its people’s right to free speech

Ika Karlina Idris – The Indonesian government has blocked internet access as they deployed security forces to its easternmost provinces following days of violent protests there. Papuans took to the streets following arrests and racist treatments of Papuan students over the weekend in East Java.

This is the second time in 2019 the Indonesian government blocked internet access as a response to political events.

In May 2019, the government also limited internet access after protests contesting the presidential election results led to riots on the streets of Jakarta. They gave the same explanation: to prevent the spread of hoaxes.

The blocking of internet access in Papua sets a bad precedent for Indonesia, a democratic nation with the highest freedom index in Southeast Asia.

By shutting down access to means of online communication, not only has the government disregarded the right of Papuans to freely express themselves and inform the entire country about the events happening in their region, but also the right of all Indonesian citizens to know what’s happening on the ground.

The internet and democracy in Papua

Papua region in Indonesia comprising of two provinces, Papua and West Papua, is a restricted area for foreign journalists [1]. The government requires foreign media to go through complicated administrative procedures to obtain permits to go there.

The government has, for a long time, been limiting information access from Papua to suppress separatist movements fighting for independence from Indonesia [2].

These separatist movements in Papua emerged as a response to discontent regarding a 1969 referendum that decided Papua would be part of Indonesia. Even though the referendum took place under the supervision of the United Nations, only 1,022 delegations from Papua were involved, handpicked by authorities in Jakarta [3].

Papuans have endured marginalisation, a series of military operations that paid no regard to human rights, and exploitation of Papua’s rich natural resource [4].

In May 2015, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo promised to open access for foreign journalists to enter Papua. However, foreign journalists still face challenges and harassment while reporting in Papua.

When media freedom is limited, social media and the internet plays a role in helping journalists find a diverse source of information. They can get information not only from authorities but also from local residents.

What’s also important, is that internet access and social media empowers local residents to disseminate first-hand information to the public, and also learn about events happening elsewhere.

Clay Shirky, a professor of media studies in New York University, wrote in his article “The Political Power of Social Media” [5], that social platforms can strengthen democracy as they provide a channel for citizens to share information and create what’s called a shared awareness.

This shared awareness is important to help society become aware of the problems that they encounter around them. With this understanding and awareness, an issue can evolve to become an agenda for public discussion.

In the context of Papua, without the internet, it would be difficult for a group of people that experience injustice and discrimination to tell their stories to foster the much-needed awareness of these injustices.

Because of this, limitations on internet access should be regarded as an attack on democracy.

German philosopher Jurgen Habermas once said that democracy could only be kept alive if the public can freely deliberate their problems and experiences in the public sphere.

A research by media scholar Chang Sup Park from the University at Albany [6].

They cannot check on the safety of their relatives living in Papua, or verify dubious rumours.

A darkness that helps none and hurts all

Some groups defend the government’s decision. They argue that to prevent the spread of misinformation in social media that can potentially incite further violence the internet block was needed.

They say that the internet block by the government during the May 22 riots was warranted, as it aims to protect the public from even more riots that might arise from fake news circulating on social media.

President Jokowi also justified the internet shutdown in Papua, saying that the decision was made in the interests of national security [7].

However, we must remain vigilant that there is an even larger threat: a direct attack on free speech as a vital pillar of democracy.

Those under threat are not only Papuans but also all Indonesians. The media cannot access information from the region, so the ability of journalists and citizens to share information is pretty much crippled.

The threat to the rights of civilians in Papua and other regions to gain information and express their opinion damages the hard-won democracy in Indonesia that we have built together for so long.

[Ika Karlina Idris is a Dosen Paramadina at the Graduate School of Communication, Paramadina University.]

• The Conversation - August 23, 2019: