Journalists and press organisations in Jayapura (see photo, source: Jubi) have established the Press Legal Aid Association (PBH Pers) in response to the raising number of cases involving intimidation, obstruction and physical attacks as well as cyberattacks against journalists in West Papua. The Indonesian Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI Indonesia) documented a total number of 114 cases of violence against journalists in West Papua during the past 20 years. 90 of these cases reportedly occurred between May 2020 and May 2021, alone. The violations included acts of verbal intimidation, destruction of work equipment and coverage, as well as physical violence.
The Press Legal Aid Institute (LBH Pers) in Jakarta observed that press freedom in Indonesia has deteriorated significantly since 2019. This was not only indicated by the high number of attacks but also the increase of cases of attempts to criminalise journalists using the Indonesian Electronic Information and Transaction Act (UU ITE) and vague legal provisions under the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP). According to LBH Pers, the police continue to be the top perpetrator of violations against journalists, with 65% of the cases being committed by members of the police.
The formation of PBH Pers should raise public awareness on the legal mandate of journalists among the public, increase legal protection of journalists and counter the widespread climate of impunity in West Papua. If attacks against journalists are reported to the police, most of the cases are settled outside of the law, particularly if the alleged perpetrators are affiliated with the police or the military. This condition is nourishing impunity in West Papua as perpetrators do not have to fear the legal consequences.