Press freedom in West Papua under threat - two assaults on local journalists throughout November

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Multiple Papuan news outlets have reported two cases of violence against local journalists in the  province of Papua throughout November 2017. On 5 November 2017, 'Pasific Pos' journalist Ridwan Cholid Abubakar was attacked by a member of the Kodim/1704 Wamena military unit in Jayapura. The Hong Kong-based human rights organisation 'Asian Human Rights Commission' (AHRC) reported that six days after the incident, a group of at least six police officers of Mimika Police Office (Polres Mimika) ill-treated 'OKE Zone' journalist Saldi Hermanto. The reason for the attack was a Facebook post in which Saldi allegedly criticized the performance of the local police in securing the outbreak of chaos during a public entertainment show at the Timika night market, resulting in public panic among the crowd.

Assault against Ridwan Cholid Abubakar
On  5 November 2017, around 22.30 East Indonesia Tim (EIT), 'Pasific Pos' journalist Ridwan Cholid Abubakar was waiting for a friend at the so-called Argapura Bawah Complex as a member of Kodim/1704 Wamena military unit with the initials TK stopped his motorcycle next to him and grabbed his arm, accusing him as drug user. When Ridwan explained the military  member that he did not take any drugs, the soldier punched him repeatedly in the face causing bruises on the journalist's left cheek and the neck. According to Ridwan Cholid Abubakar, TK was acting under the influence of alcohol. One of the perpetrator's superiors, Colonel Inf M. Aidi, apologized for the incident and stated in a public interview that TK will be processed in a military trial.  

Attack on Saldi Hermanto
On 11 November at 22.50 (EIT), Saldi Hermanto was sitting in a public post near the police traffic control post, which is known as a meeting spot for local journalists. A group of at least six police officers approached Saldi and brought him inside the traffic control post, where they repeatedly punched him to the head and upper body. Saldi sustained bruises on the left  temple and the right ribs, causing difficulties in breathing after the attack. According to the national Police Chief of the Mimika District Police, Victor Dean Mackbon, the police has initiate investigations against eight police officers.

The protection and fulfillment of media freedom is an important component in realizing  ‘freedom of expression’ in West Papua. In 2015, local media activists reported five cases of intimidation, arrest and physycal violence. The 'International Coalition for Papua' (ICP) has documented further five cases between January and September 2017 in which journalists in West Papua were obstructed or attacked by security force members.

According to the Indonesian Association of Independent Journalists (AJI), the acts of violence and intimidation against journalists in the provinces of Papua and Papua Barat still frequently occur because such incidents are generally not processed by law. As a consequence most cases of violence against journalists during media coverage end with impunity for the perpetrators and tend to re-occur in the future. The data collected by AJI Papua revealed that most cases in West Papua are committed by members of the police.