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Jakarta Post
The Jakarta Post
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Jakarta keeps strong grip on Papua as rallies intensify

  • Moses Ompusunggu and Lita Aruperes

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta/Manado | Wed, December 21, 2016 | 11:37 am
Jakarta keeps strong grip on Papua as rallies intensify Dozens of students, who staged a rally at a dormitory for Papuan students on Jl. Kampus in Manado, North Sulawesi, were brought to North Sulawesi Police headquarters to be questioned on May 31. (JP/Lita Aruperes)

Jakarta is continuing its strong handed approach to Papua and West Papua, the country’s easternmost provinces torn between poverty and violence, despite calls to soften its stance in handling the restive region.

In Manado, North Sulawesi, 85 protesters have been detained by the local police for displaying the morning star flag — the symbol of West Papuan independence — in front of the North Sulawesi governor’s office in the city.

The rallies were organized by the National Committee on West Papua (KNPB), an organization advocating the right to self-determination for the people of the two provinces.

KNPB chairman Hiskia Mogea criticized the police’s move, saying that it did not “comply with the procedures”. “The protesters had not yet started the rally when the police arrived to arrest them,” Hiskia said on Tuesday.

The group said at least 528 protesters were arrested by the police following massive demonstrations held in various cities across the country on Monday to commemorate the 1961 military operation to seize what was then known as West Papua from the Dutch.

One of the detained protesters, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said the detainees had been mistreated in custody, claiming that the police had only served them once since the arrests took place on Monday.

In Jakarta, an advocacy group is considering taking legal action against the government for blocking a web portal containing information about human rights violations in Papua.

The Legal Aid Institute for the Press (LBH Pers) is considering taking legal action against President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration for the block put on suarapapua.com, a prominent Papua-based online news outlet deemed to contain “negative” content according to country’s information law, which many consider to be draconian.

LBH Pers head of research and network development Asep Komarudin said the institute, which is suarapapua.com legal representative, may either file a civil lawsuit to challenge the Communications and Information Ministry’s censorship, or file a report with the police accusing the ministry of violating freedom of the press guarantees in Article 18, point 1 of the 1999 Press Law.

“The ministry provided no clear reason for blocking the website, but we believe the site was blocked because it stood as a local news source that routinely reported on human rights violations in the region,” Asep told The Jakarta Post.

“It was the voice of the voiceless [in Papua].”

The blocking of the website came amid a series of government crackdowns on websites it deemed as sources of sectarian sentiment, known in Indonesia as SARA, amid rising political tension related to the blasphemy allegations against non-active Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama.

Following the report by suarapapua.com, LBH Pers then sent a letter to the ministry to seek information about its rationale for blocking the news outlet.

In response to the complaint by LBH Pers, the ministry said in a letter dated Nov. 21 and signed by the ministry’s director general for information applications, Semuel Pangerapan, that suarapapua.com was blocked upon request by “a ministry/government institution authorized to determine whether a website has violated the law”. It did not explain further.

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