Human Rights Watch calls for more international scrutiny of West Papua

Human Rights Watch in Indonesia is calling for more international scrutiny of the country's Papuan provinces.

The organisation's Jakarta based researcher, Andreas Harsono made the call following an announcement last week that no more than five Papuan political prisoners remained behind bars in Papua and West Papua, down from 37 in 2016.

Mr Harsono said while the release of political prisoners was a positive step, more needed to be done to address serious human rights abuses committed by Indonesian security forces in the Papuan regions.

He said a UN special rapporteur on Freedom of Expression should be allowed to visit West Papua.

"That is something that can help. And of course international journalists, international NGOs, international monitors, they can help. We are not there to meddle, to be involved in domestic politics in West Papua. We are there just to help both sides to get the truth," said Mr Harsono.

He said international media coverage was particularly needed given Indonesian journalists relied heavily on state information for their reporting and some had even been known to work as informants for security authorities.

He said Papuan journalists were doing some good work but they were afraid to talk about sensitive issues for fear of being assaulted or harassed.

But in a statement, the Indonesian government said it strongly condemned reports that it did not allow international media access to its Papuan regions.

It said following President Jokowi's declaration in 2015 that Indonesia would open West Papua to international media, it had received 32 requests for journalistic visits to Papua and only four had been declined.

It said similarly in 2016, only four out of 19 requests were declined because of administrative matters.

It said based on these facts it was highly irrelevant and irresponsible for any party to doubt that freedom of expression and freedom of the press existed in Indonesia.


Photo: Human Rights Watch Andreas Harsono