Both the Melanesian Spearhead Group and Pacific Forum leaders meetings this year revealed a silence from Pacific leaders on this issue, despite strong civil society lobbying, and despite Indonesia being an Observer to the Melanesian Spearhead Group because of West Papua.
“With the killings and human rights abuses reported in recent weeks and the continued threats to journalists there, more Pacific journalists outside of West Papua should pressure their leaders to start explaining why a pocket of indigenous Melanesians are unable to freely speak, share and gather in peaceful protest, in their own land,” says PFF chair Titi Gabi, of Papua New Guinea.
The challenge comes as tensions around strike actions at the Freeport mine continue and more revelations of soldiers attacking and abusing indigenous Papuan villagers are reported in Indonesia’s Jakarta Globe. In October a pro-independence meeting in Jayapura sparked more armed force against unarmed civilians which left more than six people dead and hundreds more injured and arrested. Separately, strike actions at the Freeport mine has also sparked violence and led to armed action by security forces against unarmed civilians. The long running failure to investigate and prosecute those responsible for these crimes and breaches of Indonesia's human rights commitments has been condemned by groups in the region and across the globe, including Amnesty International.
“In solidarity with our colleagues in Indonesia and in support of the national Media Association of Vanuatu in their recent statement, PFF also condemns these brutal attacks on people determined to exercise their human their right to freely gather, and freely speak, in the province of West Papua. Journalists there are already experiencing threats and have been killed in the course of their investigations into what is happening," says Gabi.
Also in the last month, the Pacific Journalism Review of the Pacific Media Centre at Auckland’s University of Technology has highlighted West Papua in a special edition on Pacific media freedom. In the last year in West Papua two journalists have been killed, there have been five abductions or attempted abductions, 18 assaults (including repeated cases against some journalists), censorship by both the civil and military authorities and two police arrests without charges.
Speaking from Pagopago in American Samoa, PFF co-chair Monica Miller described the situation in West Papua as horrifying.
"It is hard for us in Polynesia to comprehend the horrific scale and severity of the violence destroying the lives of our sister and brother wantoks. West Papua reminds journalists of the call to ethics in seeking out the voiceless in Pacific communities, and bringing the powerful to account.”
“As Pacific journalists continue to question the impacts of our colonial past on the Pacific politics and realities of today, authorities in New Zealand and Australia also need to look past the interests of powerful investors and make human rights in West Papua a priority issue." .--ENDS
Pacific Media Watch/Pacific Media Centre
CONTACT: PFF Chair Titi Gabi | Freelance Journalist | Papua New Guinea Mail: PO Box 7776, Boroko, NCD, Papua New Guinea | Mob: (675) 7314 3929 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org PFF co-Chair Monica Miller | KHJ Radio | American Samoa Mob 684 258-4197 | Office 684 633-7793 | Email: email@example.com The Pacific Freedom Forum are a regional and global online network of Pacific media colleagues, with the specific intent of raising awareness and advocacy of the right of Pacific people to enjoy freedom of expression and be served by a free and independent media. We believe in the critical and basic link between these freedoms, and the vision of democratic and participatory governance pledged by our leaders in their endorsement of the Pacific Plan and other commitments to good governance. In support of the above, our key focus is monitoring threats to media freedom and bringing issues of concern to the attention of the wider regional and international community.