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Offline mayya

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West Papua: 'doors are open' to foreign journalists and NGOs
« on: October 10, 2013, 13:47:38 PM »
West Papua: 'doors are open' to foreign journalists and NGOs

Greens welcome the country's change in position after governor says he will guarantee reporters' safety in the province

Oliver Laughland, Thursday 10 October 2013 04.12 BST

Richard Di Natale says he plans to lead a delegation to the region and will invite journalists and human rights groups. Photograph: Alan Porritt/AAP

West Papua is now open to foreign journalists and NGOs, according to Papuan governor Lukas Enembe, who has promised to allow reporters into the region for the first time in years.

Enembe told the Jakarta Post he would guarantee reporters' safety in the province in a distinct move away from a de facto censorship programme the Indonesian authorities were accused of upholding in the province.

"There's nothing that needs to be covered up. That would only raise questions. They can see the development we have made and inform others that Papua is a safe place," Enembe said.

"Please, come to Papua. It's open for everyone," he continued.

Enembe was elected as governor to the West Papuan province of Papua in April.

The indication that the region will be opened up to journalists has been welcomed by Australian politicians. Greens senator Richard Di Natale, the party's spokesman on West Papua, said he now planned to lead a delegation to the region and would invite journalists and human rights groups to attend.

Di Natale said he hoped the comments represented a "genuine reflection of the intentions of the Indonesian leadership in Jakarta".

He said: "In the past there has been a de facto ban on foreign journalists travelling to West Papua. This change in position comes on the back of three West Papuans entering the Australian consulate in Bali to request that the international community pressure Indonesia to open up the region to journalists and NGOs."

On Sunday three West Papuans entered the Australian consulate in Bali, calling for political prisoners in the region to be released. The three men left the building within three hours and are understood to have gone into hiding.

One of the men told Guardian Australia that consular staff told the group the Indonesian police and army would be called, but the Australian foreign ministry denied the men were threatened.

Asked about the incident on Monday the prime minister, Tony Abbott, said Australia "would not give people a platform to grandstand against Indonesia", and said the situation in West Papua was "getting better, not worse".

Di Natale said Enembe had "seized the moment, unlike Tony Abbott who categorised the incident as 'grandstanding'".

Some human rights campaigners have expressed scepticism about the announcement. Josef Benedict, Amnesty International's Indonesia and Timor campaigner, said while the group welcomed the comments he was unsure if it signalled a Jakarta-approved policy change.

"The question we're asking is whether this a policy change just for the governor or a policy change for Jakarta, where we know a lot of policies on Papua are decided upon.

"We need to see a bit more evidence here for a change in policy in Jakarta before we take any steps to take access," Benedict told Guardian Australia from Kuala Lumpur.

Guardian Australia has contacted the Indonesian foreign minister's office for a response.