Papua Advocacy Groups Welcome Release Of French Journalists

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AWPA hopes President will honor election promise to open West Papua

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (Pacific Scoop, Oct. 27, 2014) – Advocacy groups campaigning for West Papuan human rights have welcomed the release due today of two French journalists, Valentine Bourrat and Thomas Dandois, who were arrested in early August for undertaking journalism research using a tourist visa.

Arrested on August 6 in Wamena in the Highlands, a Jayapura court on Friday ordered them to be released today after being sentenced to two and a half months in prison.

They have already served this time in detention.

A lot of attention was focused on their case during their time in detention, by the media and local and international NGOs. Many rallies were staged by solidarity groups calling for their release, both in West Papua and internationally.

The Paris-based media freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also launched a petition calling for their release.

Joe Collins of the Australia West Papua Association (AWPA ) said: "It’s hoped that the media will continue to focus on the issue of West Papua. For all the talk about Indonesia being a democracy, West Papuans are still arrested for taking part in peaceful rallies and there are least 74 political prisoners in Papuan jails."

The Indonesian President, Joko Widowo, who visited West Papua twice in the lead up to the election promised to open West Papua to foreign journalists and non-government organisations if he won the election.

"Why not? It’s safe here in Papua," he was quoted as saying. "There’s nothing to hide."

Hopefully he will keep his promise, says Collins.

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