JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post/Pacific Media Watch): Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi has revealed that her ministry had approved eight applications for foreign journalist visits to the resource-rich but politically disputed Papua region in the past six months.
In 2014, similar approval was given to 22 requests and only five were turned down.
"The refusals in 2014 were made because of incomplete procedures or warnings regarding the security situation in the areas in Papua where they wanted to go. Otherwise, from the data we have, there have been no deliberate actions to restrict foreign journalists' access into the province," Retno said in a hearing with the Commission on Information, Defence and Foreign Affairs at the parliamentary House compound.
She explained that she had already conveyed the specific procedures for how the restrictions would be eased.
Head of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) Marciano Norman said the government's move to ease foreign media's access to the country's easternmost province would be beneficial for Indonesia in international eyes.
However, he said the Papua coverage should be conducted responsibly and fairly.
"It (the policy) is actually beneficial for us because their reports can help us see where we need to improve the development in the region. However, they must be responsible and give fair and balanced coverage," he said.
Pacific Media Watch reports: No information was given about the nationalities of the successful journalists given approval.
Only one New Zealand journalist has visited the Papuan region in recent years, Paul Benseman, who was forced to go there under cover in 2013.
The Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders will be meeting from tomorrow in Honiara, Solomon Islands, on the controversial issues of representation for West Papuans in the regional body.
Recent global demonstrations for "free access' to West Papua climaxed with President Joko Widowo announcing a more liberal policy for the foreign media while on a visit to Papua.
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