Series of Assaults Against Local Journalists in Papua

Two days before Indonesia hosted the annual event for the commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day on 3rd May at the Jakarta Convention Center, human rights defenders reported a further physical assault against a journalist, working for the local news website 'Tabloid Jubi'. Police officers arbitrarily arrested Yance Wenda on 1st May 2017 around 9.00 am, as he was covering a peaceful demonstration by the pro-independence organization KNPB (West Papua National Committee) in Sentani, Jayapura Regency. He was subsequently detained for four hours at the Jayapura district police station, where officers allegedly tortured him. According to Yance Wenda, several police officers beat him on face, back, legs and arms using bare hands a rattan sticks (see image below). One officer kicked Yance Wenda in the face, causing a deep cut in the inside of his lower lip.

The police officers arrested Yance Wenda after he had taken pictures of police officers arresting KNPB protesters near the Jayapura District police station. One officer approached Yance Wenda and allegedly took his glasses away and asked him whether he was a KNPB supporter. Yance told the officer that he was a journalist while looking for his letter of assignment in his bag. Before he could show the letter, a further officer came towards Yance, snatched away his bag and forcefully arrested him. Later on, other police officers found the assignment letter when they searched Yances belongings at the police station. He was released around 1.30 pm.

Jayapura Police Chief Gustav Urbinas acknowledged that his officers had arrested Yance but denied all acts of torture during detention and arrest. He further justified the arrest because Wenda allegedly joined the protesters. Furthermore he did not bring a press pass. Dominggus Mampioper, chief editor of Tabloid Jubi, confirmed that Wenda was assigned to cover the KNPB demonstration. Mampioper stated that due to internal policy, new Tabloid Jubi journalists would only receive assignment letters instead of press cards, which would have the same purpose as press cards.

The assault on Yance Wenda is only one in a series of repressive measures against journalists in West Papua during the past months. One week before the incident another TV reporter named Ricardo Hutahaean was allegedly assaulted by police officers in Jayapura. Police officers temporarily detained Hutahaean, seized his camera and deleted its contents. Hutahaean, who heads an association of Papua TV journalists, and two colleagues also received death threats after covering a court hearing on a dispute between local politicians. On 17th March 2017 Indonesian officials deported two French journalists from the province of Papua. Jean Frank Pierre and Basille Marie Longhamp were shooting a documentary film on the nature and culture of the Papua Province.