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Panpa Bulletin : November 2010
www.panpa.org.au 6 | NOVEMBER 2010 | The PANPA Bulletin Playing with fire Australianjournalist MarkWorth died suspiciously in a hotel in 2004 Journalists are being killed or threatened with violence for reporting on business deals, the environment, and the West Papuan independence movement, REBECCA LEAVER reports Journalist Ardiansyah Matra'is found dead in August West Papuans protest for independence. Image: West Papua Media Alerts To cowardly journalists, never play with fire if you don't want to be burned. If you still want to make a living on this land, don't do weird things. We have data on all of you and be prepared for death" anonymous threat " THE naked body of reporter Ardiansyah Matra'is was found, his arm tethered to a tree, in the Gudang Arang river in West Papua. He braved months of harassment for his reports on illegal logging. News reports said he had been tor- tured but police deny this and claim his death to be suicide. His death joins a growing list of violent acts against journalists in the Indonesian province once known as Irian Jaya. "Ardiansyah Matra'is was my friend and we worked together," said Wensislaus Fatubun, who worked as Mr Matra'is' cameraman before his death. Mr Fatubun told The Bulletin: "We were approached by a member of Kopassus (the Special Forces Com- mand of the Indonesian government). Ardiansyah got very paranoid after Kopassus kept contacting him." Weeks before his death he report- edly accepted an invitation by a group of people claiming to be journalists to help them investigate illegal logging. According to the Asia-Pacific arm of the International Federation of Journalists, the group were members of Kopassus who threatened him and his family if he did not stop reporting business deals. A text message he received, trans- lated by the Indonesia news website Kompas, said: "To cowardly journal- ist, never play with fire if you don't want to be burned. If you still want to make a living on this land, don't do weird things. We have data on you . . .be prepared for death." Journalists also face threats when reporting on the West Papuan inde- pendence movement known as the OMP, according to Australian-based Nick Chesterfield, of West Papua Media Alerts. This independence struggle is In- donesia's biggest unresolved territo- rial dispute after East Timor gained independence in 1999 and the Aceh conflict being resolved in 2005. US Congress held a committee hearing in September into the reports of human rights violations from Indo- nesian military and security personal towards the people of West Papua called: Crimes against humanity: When will Indonesia's Military be held accountable for deliberate and systematic abuses in West Papua? "West Papua is like a mountain of gold sitting on a river of oil," said Mr Chesterfield. "Journalists are killed or put in danger when they hold information about the many business deals. "Anywhere journalists report fear- lessly they are a target. But most jour- nalists in West Papua simply put up with it, they have no other option," he said. Foreign journalists need a govern- ment permit to work in the province -- which is rarely granted. In June, two French television journalists were detained after filming a human rights rally. Baudouin Koenig, 54, and Carole Lorthiois, 27, were accused of violat- ing their visas. Mr Koenig wrote in The Guardian later: "I came to Indonesia to draw the portrait of the greatest emerging power of the G20 members and larg- est Muslim state in the world . . . "For a month, I travelled freely. I worked without restriction on topics as sensitive as sharia law, terrorism, corruption, the slaughter of com- munists in 1965 and the state of the economy. "And so, in possession of a valid press card and journalist visa valid, I arrived in Jayapura, the capital of West Papua. "A mere few hours after my land- ing, I touched the limits of freedom of the press. I was arrested while filming a student demonstration in favour of autonomy and democracy. After eight hours of interrogation, the bu- reau chief of immigration cancelled my visa and sent me back to Jakarta for immediate expulsion." The suspicious death of Australian journalist Mark Worth on January 15 2004 in a hotel room in West Papua, is still yet to be properly investigated. Authorities concluded he died of pneumonia but colleagues have urged the Australian government to conduct a more thorough investigation. Mr Worth, 45, died two days after the Australian Broadcast Corporation premiered his damning documentary on Indonesia's violent response to the West Papuan independence move- ment, Land of the Morning Star. Former Papuan politician Clem- ence Runawery told AAP questions remained unanswered about his friend's death and has likened it to the Balibo Five - the Australian journalists murdered in East Timor in 1975. "The Indonesians knew Worth was following us, they didn't like it," he said. The availability of local informa- tion through the West Papuan media is also limited. Local papers, such as Cepos Ced- erawasih Pos and Tifa Irian, both in Indonesian, are owned or run by ex- Army or Indonesian politicians. "Cendrawait Pos occasionally gets some good stories," said Mr Chester- field, "but it is still run by ex-military men. They are not an open slate for reportage." Smaller local papers have been set up and funded by church groups, such as Tabloid Jubi and Bintang Papua, where local people are trained to be reporters. "They are run as proper media outlets for the community rather than the traditional Javanese controlled media. The idea was to get more people reporting on their commu- nity," said Mr Chesterfield. The intention of West Papua Me- dia Alerts is to give local journalists a voice on the international stage. "Our hope is that we have a really robust citizen media that can deliver accountability," Mr Chesterfield said. "We want to stop people from being afraid of speaking out."