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Jakarta Post

West Papua journalist faces intimidation, files appeal to UN

  • Ardila Syakriah

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, August 24, 2019   /   04:37 pm
West Papua journalist faces intimidation, files appeal to UN Aggrieved: Escorted by military personnel and police officers, Papuans demonstrate in front of the Presidential Palace in Central Jakarta on Thursday. Protesters called on the government to take seriously cases of physical and racial abuse against Papuan students by security personnel in Surabaya, East Java, on Saturday. (JP/Seto Wardhana)

West Papua journalist Victor Mambor claims he has faced intimidation and harassment for reporting on the internet blackout sanctioned by the government amid escalating protests in Papua and West Papua.

The Indonesia Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI Indonesia), of which he is a member, reported that Victor, the editor of Jubi newspaper and a correspondent for The Jakarta Post, had fallen victim to "doxing" by a social media user with the Twitter handle @antilalat on Thursday.

Doxing refers to the publishing of private or identifying information about individuals on the internet, usually with malicious intent.

A day later, UK-based law firm Doughty Street Chambers announced that Victor had filed an urgent appeal to UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression David Kaye regarding internet blocking in the provinces amid protests that have occurred since Monday. 

AJI Indonesia's advocacy head Sasmito Madrim said that @antilalat had accused Victor of having links to the Free Papua Movement (OPM) in the provinces and abroad, as well as being an informant for Indonesian lawyer Veronica Koman, who is a lawyer for the West Papua National Committee (KNPB).

Sasmita said the accusations against Victor were groundless since Victor had merely been doing his job as a reporter objectively while complying with the journalism code of ethics.

"The AJI would like to remind social media users and law enforcers that journalists, in doing their jobs, are protected by Law No. 40/1999 on the press. If anyone thinks there is incorrect journalistic material published in the media, the Press Law regulates the mechanisms that ensure a journalistic right to reply and corrections, and allow the filing of complaints to the Press Council," Sasmito said.

The journalist group said @antilalat had made at least three accusations against the journalist between July and August.

"The distributor of information and negative propaganda to Veronica Koman is @victormambor who is the chief editor of jubi.co.id and @ArnoldBelau, the chief editor of suarapapua.com. @victormambor is also the connecter between the foreign wing of the OPM and the OPM operating in the hinterland [of Indonesia]," @antilalat said. 

Victor said on Saturday that he had not faced direct intimidation during the protests this week, but he was worried about the safety of his family.

"The user has even shared my house location on Twitter," he told the Post via text message while attaching a screenshot of the tweet posted in February.

Victor has chosen Doughty Street Chambers lawyer Jennifer Robinson and Veronica of the KNPB to represent him in filing the urgent appeal to the UN Special Rapporteur, which may take action if his report on the internet blockade and its impact are found to be credible.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights website, if information in a petition is found to be credible, the rapporteur will send a letter to the foreign minister of the concerned country urging the government to ensure the “physical and mental integrity” of persons affected in the report.   

The internet blackout was imposed on Wednesday following days of protests across the provinces, where protestors had taken to the streets since Monday morning to protest against racist abuse suffered by Papuan students during a clash over the weekend in Surabaya, East Java.

Doughty Street Chambers revealed on its website that the complaint was based on the violation of fundamental human rights of people in West Papua by blocking internet access there, as the people were reliant on the internet and social media to be able to communicate and organize peaceful demonstrations.

"[The internet block] also interferes with the ability of journalists, including Mr. Mambor to do their work, including [...] being unable to communicate generally with each other, with sources and with the international community, difficulties in publishing online stories, and making it almost impossible to verify information circulated on social media, which is the primary means of communication for protesters and indigenous Papuans and for journalists," the law firm said.