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Police use excessive violence against Papuan demonstrators, journalist

(SEAPA/IFEX) - Jakarta, 23 October - In this joint statement, the Pantau Foundation and SEAPA call for an end to violence against Papuan journalists.

Police today attacked a journalist covering a rally organised by the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) in Manokwari in West Papua. Oktovianus Pogau, a reporter with Suara Papua and a contributor to the Yayasan Pantau, was beaten by five policemen while trying to take pictures of police use of excessive violence against the KNPB demonstrators in front of the State University of Papua, Manokwari. Pogau had displayed his press card, but some police did not stop the beating. He sustained injuries to his face.

The security forces had attempted to stop the rally but the KNPB activists went on with the demonstrations.

In Jayapura, police dispersed thousands of demonstrators using the water cannon and tear gas. In Manokwari, five people were reportedly shot but it is still not clear under what conditions.

SEAPA's executive director Gayathry Venkiteswaran said: "We deplore the aggression used against the demonstrators and especially journalists, who are on duty. Papua has been a particularly difficult and dangerous place for the media and such kinds of abuse will further deny the rights of the people to news and information."

She said SEAPA raised concerns about the violence against journalists in Papua and the restrictions placed on foreign journalists in its submission to the Human Rights Council on the occasion of Indonesia's Universal Periodic Review.

"The threats of impunity, of not bringing perpetrators of violence against media personnel to justice, is a problem that has pushed back Indonesia's gains in media freedom in the last decade or so," she added.

In 2011, two journalists were killed in Papua, eight were kidnapped and 18 attacked. Foreign journalists are required to apply for special permits to enter and cover stories in Papua since Indonesia took over the administration of West Papua in 1963. Only three news organizations, including the BBC, obtained the permits last year.

Pantau Foundation and the Southeast Asian Press Alliance condemn the attacks against the media, especially in Papua where activists, human rights defenders and journalists are frequently targeted for their work. Since October, two veteran human rights defenders, respectively from Wamena and Jayapura, have moved out of Papua due to serious threats against them.

We call on the police to:
1. Respect the rights of citizens to freedom of expression;
2. Ensure the safety of Oktovianus Pugao;
3. Stop all forms of violence against journalists;
4. Arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of violence.

We also call on the Indonesian government to:
1. Open up Papua to international journalists and human rights monitors; and
2. Guarantee the rights of all journalists working in West Papua to ensure they can work free of violence, hindrance or intimidation from any members of the security forces

Imam Shofwan, Chairman, Pantau Foundation
Gayathry Venkiteswaran, Executive Director, SEAPA


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