Police officers obstruct journalists at the district police station in Yahukimo

The Papuan branch office of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI Papua) has condemned the obstruction of two Papuan journalists in the town of Dekai, in the Yahukimo regency, where joint security forces have conducted widespread raids in response to the murder of three civilians. Ruland Kabak (see intro image, source: Suara Papua) and Atamus Kepno wanted to obtain information about the murders and the ongoing investigation. Several police officers intimidated the journalists, refused to provide information on the case and prevented them from meeting with suspects.

Ruland Kabak, a journalist working for the media outlet Radio Bumi Sumohai (RBS), came to the district police station on 27 August 2020, around 11.00 am. The officers in the security post allowed him to enter the premises after he showed his press card. However, when he asked a mobile police brigade officer inside the building for information regarding the murder cases, the officer forcefully pushed him away and threatened Kabak “You better go home now […] Your press card won’t protect you”. Even though Ruland Kabak decided to leave without having received information, the officer continued to push him until the string attached to his press ID card broke. Similarly, police officers prevented Suara Papua journalist, Atamus Kepno, from entering the cell block inside the police station on 2 September 2020. The journalist wanted to interview several persons who had been detained during the police raid.

The AJI Papua Chairman, Lucky Ireeuw, urged the Head of the Yahukimo District Police to take strict sanctions against the police officers who had intimidated and obstructed both journalists. He also demanded the police chief to ensure the safety and security of all journalists carrying out their duties in the Yahukimo Regency. Ireeuw underlined the importance of journalists and a free media in a healthy democracy. All journalists in Indonesia are legally protected under Law No. 40/1999 on the press.

Articles 3 and 4 of the law guarantee the press freedom. They protect the right of the national press to seek, obtain and disseminate ideas and information. According to the press law, the obstruction of journalists carrying out their duty is punishable with a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment or a maximum fine of 500 million rupiahs (about € 28,700).