Papuan Media Accuses Indonesian Intelligence Of ‘Fake Journalism'

Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i


By Nick Chesterfield

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (Pacific Scoop, July 3, 2012) – Indonesian Intelligence and military forces have been accused of pushing their own agendas in the Papuan press in an open letter from Victor Mambor, head of the Jayapura branch of the Alliance for Independent Journalists (AJI), circulated in the West Papua region.

This letter comes at a time when the Indonesian-run colonial press in West Papua is coming under repeated attack from both Papuan and Indonesian religious and civil society figures, independent media and human rights organizations, for its unethical and blatantly false reportage of the recent upsurge in "unknown killings" in Papua, referred to as OTK (orang tidak ketahui or unknown persons, now referred to across Papua as Orang Terlatih Khusus or Specially Trained People).

Indonesian-owned media outlets in Papua have long been identified with Indonesian intelligence and propaganda activities, with many outlets being directly owned by military officers for profit, and almost all media outlets coming under the control (either willing or not) of Indonesian intelligence personnel.

West Papua Media wrote a detailed section in the Pacific Media Watch 2011 Pacific Media Freedom report published in Pacific Journalism Review and highlighted the issues faced with press freedom in West Papua.

This report details the tactics Indonesian occupation forces use to limit factual reportage in Papua, and to dissuade journalists from doing their job.

However, now the Indonesian colonial press is becoming even more blatant in pushing an agenda in step with the Indonesian military agenda.

This agenda is being keenly felt by members of the nonviolent civil resistance movement and Papuan civil society, particularly members of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), who are being blamed for the OTK campaign despite no evidence being presented to prove the military assertions, with what little evidence present having been entirely fabricated by a police too terrified to point the finger at the real perpetrators of violence in Papua – their big brothers in the military.

Mako Tabuni

Spreading falsehood

This spreading of falsehood has reached a crescendo around the assassination of KNPB leader Mako Tabuni, who was gunned down in an execution on June 14 by Australian-trained Detachment 88 officers in Jayapura.

Justifying this criminal act, Indonesian police have variously claimed that they shot Mako in self defense, despite many witness claims that he was shot in the back while on the ground.

Indonesian police then fabricated evidence including placing a handgun on his body in the hospital, and loudly announcing that Mako was responsible with other KNPB members for the series of OTK shootings, including the shooting of a German tourist.

This is despite the unchallenged fact that all shootings were carried out with men in broad daylight who made no attempt to hide and nonchalantly drove away in the DS (police) plated Avanzas.

This was reported uncritically by many in the colonial Indonesian press in Papua, with ironically perhaps, the truth-telling in Indonesian metropolitan media coming from independent human rights journalists who went out on a limb by telling the story of the peaceful activist and freedom fighter whom they had all met and spent time with in his attempts to non-violently raise the issue of his peoples suffering under colonial genocidal policies.

Yet the shootings continue, even with the official suspect dead, with nary a comment coming from the colonial press, a situation that is a direct repetition of the assassination of Kelly Kwalik on December 16, 2010.

Kwalik was also blamed for the OTK shootings that have plagued the giant Freeport Grasberg gold and copper mine for many years, shootings widely blamed on a spat between Brimob police and the TNI for control of mine protection and illegal gold mining businesses.

Shootings continue

Again, despite the assassination of Kwalik (again by Detachment 88 officers), the shootings continue, and will continue as long as the Indonesian security forces use conflict as a way of guaranteeing their presence.

A presence with its only purpose being to exploit natural resources and make the generals’ money – at the heart of why Papuan people resist the colonization of their land.

The leader of the indigenous Papuan Kingmi church, the Reverend Benny Giay, was last week in Jakarta to brief international diplomats about the shootings and recent massive increases in state violence against Papuan people.

In his briefing, he said that when the government has claimed shootings are carried out by separatist groups, Papuans respond to those claims with their usual: "Oh itu lagu lama. The authorities are playing the old song."

As Mambor has outlined in his letter, Rev Giay made a series of formal complaints to the Indonesian Press Council and journalists’ associations about the alleged lack of integrity of Indonesian so-called journalists in Papua and of their non-factual scapegoating of ordinary Papuans for separatist and violent actions.

This seems to have already threatened powerful people, as a source close to Giay had told West Papua Media that he was physically threatened by a member of the security forces during his advocacy work in Jakarta.

But this behavior by intelligence services and their not-very-opaque "journalists" is causing many independent media to look at other tactics to regain their Papuan voices.

Just as Victor Mambor has done with his heartfelt letter, the independent Papuan citizen media outlet UMAGI News has taken a bold step in publicly naming a group of Indonesian reporters that it believes are paid intelligence officers under the command of the Cenderwasih military command.

Papuan journalists: ‘Stop terror on press reporters’

In an editorial, UmagiNews has argued that most Indonesians who serve in professional media in Papua do not carry out the tasks and functions of a journalist.

"Whether in print, electronic or online media, (journalists should) convey information what has happened, seen, heard, felt. To be independent means to report the events and facts in accordance with the voice of conscience without interference, coercion, and the intervention of other parties including the owners of the press," said the Umagi editorial.

"Accurate means truthful according to the objective circumstances when the event occurs; balanced means that all parties have equal opportunity to have their views heard; and to not act in bad faith means no deliberate and sole intent of the detriment of others. Yet according to KM, a Papuan independent journalist, most journalists who served in Papua have always worked closely with the military, which is a violation of the journalistic code of ethics."

Umagi News published the names of the following reporters whom it says it has gathered evidence that shows their active collaboration as informers and/or trained agents with civilian or military intelligence services.

Umagi claims its information has come from sources within both the security forces, and from a TNI document from the command of the XVII/Cenderawasih Military Region Taskforce 6 "datasheet of informants/agents", signed by one Ahmad Fikri Musmar (NRP inf Captain 11,970,044,410,576).

All suspects are ethnic Indonesians and non-Papuan. They and their media affiliations are named on the West Papuan Media website here.

West Papua Media has sought clarification from independent journalists and human rights sources in West Papua about the veracity of these names, and our sources have concurred with the accuracy of the names given in the Umagi report, though West Papua Media has not yet been able to see the document first hand.

However, this is not a new claim.

For example, On May 16, the TNI [Indonesian military] held a major meeting with Indonesian press representatives in Sorong, and encouraged soldiers and journalists to work together to ensure "balanced coverage of the affairs of the function and duties of the TNI… so that it can be beneficial for society."

The commander of the TNI in Sorong, Colonel Inf Wiharsa Eka, even exhorted all present to monitor events together, as "it runs the full atmosphere of intimate friendship, and even a means to know each other.

The journalists should exchange phone numbers, either with me or Danyon commander (Commander Batalyon)," said the colonel. With friends like these soldiers, how could an honest journalist possibly have any fears of reporting events factually in Papua?

Papuan people reclaiming their own media space is an inevitable next step in the struggle for self-determination. The building a free and robust credible independent media is the basis for any democratic society – and indeed this is the core mission of West Papua Media.

But Indonesia’s deliberate manipulation of the truth and its corruption of the principles of journalism in West Papua, together with the ongoing and constant threats to brave professional and citizen journalists in Papua for telling the truth, are giving those committed to genuine journalism more impetus every day to give voice to the voiceless, and to help the voiceless roar in Papua.

Pacific Scoop All editorial and news content produced under the principles of Creative Commons. Permission to republish with attribution may be obtained from the Pacific Media Centre -

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