Pacific Media Watch

25 September 2014

NZ: Unions say prime minister must pressure Jakarta to release journalists

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Arrested West Papuan indigenous leader Areki Wanimbo and his lawyer, Anum Siregar, who was attacked this week for defending Wanimbo. Image:

AUCKLAND (Pacific Media Watch / The Fiji Times): The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (NZCTU) has called on Prime Minister John Key to pressure Indonesian President Joko Widodo to release two French journalists and a West Papuan indigenous leader from prison.

The NZCTU joined groups, including West Papua Action Auckland, representatives of the Melanesian community and the Green Party in demanding that the National Party government act on behalf of journalists Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat and West Papuan indigenous leader Areki Wanimbo, who was arrested after giving Dandois and Bourrat an interview.

In an open letter to Key, the organisations said the NZ government must make "strong representations to the President of Indonesia and his government for their release".

"Indonesia imposes media censorship by barring all but a select few journalists from obtaining an official journalist permit to visit West Papua. Dandois and Bourrat are following the honourable path set by the brave journalists who took risks and broke rules to ensure we knew about the tragedy in East Timor under brutal Indonesian occupation," said NZCTU president Helen Kelly.

Kelly, and Nicky Spicer and Maire Leadbeater of West Papua Action Auckland said Key must "call upon Widodo to commit to genuine media freedom in West Papua including the right of local and international journalists to report on the political situation there without risk of imprisonment or harassment by the Indonesian state".

Meanwhile in Suva, Fiji's NGO Coalition of Human Rights said it would pressure the newly elected Bainimarama government to support West Papua.

"Leading human rights activist Shamima Ali in an interview yesterday said it was important [that] Fiji, being a Pacific brother, took a role in the fight against torture and human rights violations in West Papua", the Fiji Times reported.

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