Pacific Media Watch

23 August 2019

WEST PAPUA: RSF calls for immediate end to internet blackout

Indonesia bans internet West Papua in bid to stem coverage of protests. Image: TRT News

PARIS (Reporters Without Borders/Pacific Media Watch): Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called for an immediate end to a two-day-old internet blackout in West Papua, where Indonesian security forces have been clashing with Papuan pro-independence demonstrators.

The blackout violates the freedom to inform and makes it hard for journalists to work, RSF said.

Internet access in West Papua was initially slowed down and then disconnected altogether on August 21 in what the information ministry called a temporary measure designed “to accelerate the process of restoring the security and order situation in Papua and the surrounding areas,” where violent protests have been taking place.

READ MORE: Indonesia blocks internet over unrest

As a result of the blackout, journalists reporting in the field have been finding it extremely difficult to transmit their stories, photos and video, and to contact their news organisations and sources.

“Cutting internet access prevents journalists from covering the situation and encourages rumours, at the risk of fuelling instability in the region,” RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk said.

“This measure constitutes a disproportionate violation of the right to information and freedom of expression, which underpin all democracies.

"We urge the Indonesian government to reconnect the internet without delay.”

Violent protests and rioting began in West Papua on August 17 after police raided a student campus to arrest young Papuans accessed of removing the Indonesia flag.

The raid triggered multiple clashes between the security forces and pro-independence activists, and has prompted the Indonesian authorities to dispatch 1000 soldiers to the region.

Indonesia is ranked 124th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

The Pacific Media Centre's Pacific Media Watch freedom project collaborates with Reporters Without Borders.

Pacific Media Watch

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Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators. (cc) Creative Commons