May 27, 2015

West Papua: Foreign Journalists Still Subject to Government Clearance

On 10 May 2015, news sources reported that for the first time unhindered access was to be granted to foreign journalists wishing to visit West Papua and other Indonesian provinces, thanks to a reform by Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo.  However, on 26 May, it was announced that the controversial ‘Clearing House’, a group of ministries and agencies in charge of issuing permission to visit these areas, will still be functioning, under the different name of Foreigner Monitoring Team. 


Below is an article by The Jakarta Post

The government will maintain the function of the controversial clearing house that is authorized to issue permits to foreign journalists to travel to Papua and West Papua, and change its name to the foreigner monitoring team, an official said on Tuesday [26 May 2015].

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno said that the function of the clearing house, which consisted of 12 government ministries and agencies, as well as the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the National Police, was to protect national interests.

"We will temporarily change its name to foreigner monitoring team, with the same function [as the clearing house]," he said.

He said national interests needed to be protected amid the government's move to open access to foreign journalists to cover Papua and West Papua.

"Foreign journalists should respect Indonesia as a sovereign country that has its own laws and territorial sovereignty," said Tedjo in Jakarta as quoted by Antara news agency.

He said President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo's move to remove the barriers for foreign journalists to cover Papua and West Papua, areas with a history of rampant human rights abuses, was a strategic policy that would project a positive image to the world.

"[The move] can change the negative image of Papua [as a region with rampant] violence in the eyes of the international community. With the openness [they can see that] such things don't happen in Papua," he said.