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INDONESIA: Journalists recording of Australian PM's phone call stirs row

Australian prime minister Tony Abbott and Indonesia's president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono pictured together last year. Image: ABC

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Item: 8647

CANBERRA (Australian Broadcasting Corporation / Pacific Media Watch): Indonesian journalists have been allowed to sit in a room with Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and record a telephone call he had with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

According to ABC, "top-level Indonesian government sources have confirmed to the ABC that the transcripts are accurate and that allowing journalists to be there during the phone call was, in their words, a 'mistake' ".

In the phone call, which happened last month, Abbott promises "a new relationship between Indonesia and Australia as fast as possible".

The recording of the phone call has made headlines in the media around the world.

The phone call is further proof of Abbott's close relationship with Indonesia, which has been criticised by supporters of freedom for West Papua.

The Asian Human Rights Commission said recently that Australia had supplied the Indonesian army with military helicopters that they used against West Papuans since the 1970s.

And last year, three activists who climbed the walls of the Australian consulate in Bali to highlight the ongoing Indonesian military occupation of West Papua were evicted by Australian officials.

Australia would not be party to protests aimed at undermining Indonesia's authority over West Papua, Abbott said at the time.

Abbott later claimed that the “situation in West Papua is getting better not worse” and praised Yudhoyono for giving West Papuans "greater autonomy... a better level of government services and ultimately a better life".

But West Papuans do not agree. The West Papuan Freedom Campaign opened its first office in Perth last month and called for the Australian government to support West Papua's bid for freedom from Indonesian colonisation.

The Australian West Papuan Association of Sydney called today for Abbott "to raise the human rights situation in West Papua with the Indonesian government and encourage the Indonesian President to release all West Papuan political prisoners unconditionally. It is outrageous that there are 72 West Papuans in jail, many simply because they  raised the West Papuan flag at peaceful demonstrations".
"The worst thing the Australian government can do is to continue to ignore the situation in West Papua," said the association's spokesman, Joe Collins.

Analyst Stuart Rollo says that Australia opposes freedom and independence for West Papua because this would lead to a"loss of income from West Papuan resources, which makes up a large portion of the Indonesian government's revenue, would wreak havoc on the Indonesian economy. These events could combine to create a refugee torrent on Australia's doorstep that would make the current situation seem like a trickle".

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Pacific Media Watch

PMC's media monitoring service

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.
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