On 10 May 2015, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) declared during a visit to the Merauke Regency, Papua Province, that the government will open access for foreign journalists to the provinces Papua and Papua Barat. Jokowi explained during the interview that the Clearing House procedure would be abolished, and foreign journalists covering events in West Papua would no longer need special permission differing from the permission for other parts of Indonesia.
Five years after Jokowi’s promise, it is not clear to what extent President Jokowi’s commitment in 2015 was implemented. Human rights organisations criticise that the statement was never enforced through government regulation. Such regulation should guarantee that foreign journalists can cover news events freely in West Papua without intimidation, limitations or being escorted by security force members during media coverage.
The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) reminded President Jokowi of his promise to open access to both provinces. The head of the AJI advocacy department, Erick Tanjung, explained that the press freedom situation in West Papua has hardly changed after Jokowi’s promise and foreign journalists were still restricted from covering in West Papua.
Between 2012 and 2015, AJI documented at least 77 cases where authorities closed access for journalists who wanted to carry out journalistic activities in West Papua. AJI noted a total number of 74 applications for journalistic coverage in West Papua – Indonesian authorities approved only 18 applications, while 56 permits were denied.
During the 3rd cycle of Indonesia Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council in May 2017, the Indonesian minister for foreign affairs, Mrs Retno Marsudi, mentioned the opening of West Papua for foreign journalists and international organisations among the government’s foremost human rights achievements. She elaborated that 39 foreign journalists had allegedly covered in West Papua in 2015, resembling an increase of 41% compared to 2014.