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WEST PAPUA: Indonesia bans rallies for imprisoned journalists, 29 arrested


French journalists Valentine Bourrat and Thomas Dandois, who have been held in prison since August 6th. Image: Reporters Sans Frontieres

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Item: 9013

JAYAPURA (West Papua Media / Pacific Media Watch / Tabloid Jubi): The Indonesian government has banned West Papuan activist groups from holding a rally in West Papua to demand that French journalists Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat be released by the Indonesian authorities.

Tabloid Jubi newspaper reported that the police refused to grant permission for this peaceful demonstration yesterday, but that West Papuan activists were determined to go ahead.

The SuaraPapua news website and Radio NZ International reported that 29 West Papua National Committee (KNPB) were arrested yesterday after the protest was forcibly disbanded by the Indonesian police.
The 29 West Papuan protestors arrested yesterday at a demonstration calling for the freedom of the imprisoned French journalists. Image: Suara Papua.com
The Indonesian government still bans all foreign journalists from entering West Papua. Bourrat and Dandois were arrested in West Papua on August 6 simply for reporting on the situation. They now face a potential five-year jail sentence just for doing their duty as journalists.

The Free West Papua Campaign said:

The Indonesian government is still systematically trying to cover up their atrocities in West Papua by banning all foreign media. They do not want the world to know the truth because they know that when it is exposed, the international community will help to support the West Papuan people and their struggle for self-determination.

By holding this protest, West Papuans will pressurise the Indonesian government to stop hiding the truth in West Papua and to let journalists have access so that the world will finally know what is really happening there.

Please do remember the West Papuan people, as well as Thomas and Valentine in your thoughts and prayers tomorrow as West Papuans will risk their lives to help to bring freedom to journalists who are giving the Papuan people a voice.

Australia's West Papua Association has written to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, asking her to make sure that the Indonesian authorities do not crack down on the West Papuan protesters.

Joe Collins said: "AWPA is concerned that there may be a crackdown on any rallies that are held by the civil society groups as the police have refused to give a permit to allow the rallies to go ahead. They police claim that the organisations are not correctly registered in West Papua and demonstrators may use the symbol of the Morning Star flag on banners or posters which is banned by Indonesia. In the past year the security forces have regularly cracked down on peaceful demonstrators in the territory beating and arresting many."

The international campaign to free Dandois and Bourrat reported that a petition to the Indonesian government had attracted more than 7000 signatures.

The campaign for freedom for West Papua has gained momentum with the government of Papua New Guinea recognising an historic first ever West Papuan Cultural Day held at the weekend in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

The event was organised by West Papuan UPNG Students and featured on Papua New Guinea’s national EMTV news.

The governor of Port Moresby, Powes Parkop and Minister for Tourism and Culture, Boka Kondra, spoke out in favour of freedom for West Papua.

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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.
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