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Indonesia told to respect media freedom in Papua after expelling BBC reporter Rebecca Henschke

An Indonesian armed military officer stands guard at the local clinic during a measles and malnutrition outbreak, at Ayam village, Asmat district, Papua province, 26 January 2018
An Indonesian armed military officer stands guard at the local clinic during a measles and malnutrition outbreak, at Ayam village, Asmat district, Papua province, 26 January 2018

BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images

This statement was originally published on PFF's Facebook page on 19 February 2018.

Jakarta must regain authority over Papua, demands PFF, the Pacific Freedom Forum, after the latest action by "rogue" security forces.

"Free speech should not suffer because of cookies," says PFF Chair Monica Miller, referring to removal of a BBC journalist from West Papua earlier this month.

Biscuits were highlighted by the BBC's Indonesia Editor Rebecca Henschke in a tweet about low-quality emergency relief food given to infants during a serious outbreak of measles, including sugary drinks, noodles and cookies.

"Removing BBC journalists from Papua provinces over such a tiny detail is proof that Indonesian security forces are still acting outside the law."

An official release from TNI, the Indonesian military, accused Henschke of "hurting soldiers' feelings" with her reporting. As previously noted by PFF, security forces in Papua have long operated outside the law, defying Indonesia constitutional protections for free speech, along with free press legislation.

"Papua free speech is worth more than cookies and fizzy drinks", says Miller.

PFF is calling on Jakarta to "end a slow genocide against free speech, and assert authority over rogue security forces." This call extends to development partners concerned at continued resource corruption in Papua, and across Indonesia.

From Port Moresby, PFF co-Chair Alexander Rheeney compares Indonesian 'feelings' with Papua anger over mass arrests, assault, killings and jailing of those holding up free speech rights.

"Papua people have suffered decades of free-speech loss, to tragic result - half a million documented deaths in half a century. "We then have a free-speech farce with Indonesia hosting World Press Freedom Day last year - but officially ignoring Papua."

"This deportation from Papua just adds to the farce."

From Palau, PFF co-Chair Bernadette Carreon says it is time the region paid closer attention to the role of TNI, an Indonesian armed forces badge. "That badge is the same badge currently being considered for fresh funding from the United States," notes Carreon.

"American law makers must ask themselves - can a country that gets angry over a packet of cookies be trusted with advanced security training?"

PFF supports statements from AJI, the Alliance of Independent Journalists in Indonesia, RSF, Reporters Sans Frontiers, and IFJ, the International Federation of Journalists, condemning the arrests and removal of the BBC journalists. PFF is also welcoming an invitation from Indonesia for the United Nations Human Rights Commission to visit Papua province as "long overdue."

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