Sunday, 10 May 2015

Papua promise a win for press freedom - PFF

Indonesian President Joko Widodo shakes hands with one of five political prisoners freed this week, along with a promise to free access to West Papua for foreign media. Photo / Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty Images

For immediate release:
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Sun, 10th May 2015

Freeing political prisoners and foreign press access to West Papua will be the biggest regional story this year - and the next, predicts the Pacific Freedom Forum.

"Years of pressure are finally starting to pay off," says PFF Chair Titi Gabi.

"The announcement from Indonesian President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo represents a solid step forward for media, civil society and diplomacy - within Indonesia and around the world."

President Jokowi's free press promise followed global controversy over the execution of drug smugglers, and what media groups described as deteriorating press freedoms in Indonesia.

Gabi says it was now a matter of urgency to see the Jakarta decisions turned into enduring freedoms for West Papua.

"There are still deep doubts that Jokowi has the political power to enforce this promise, but the announcement alone represents a historic moment in centuries of foreign oppression in Papua.

"Attention must now turn from the government of Indonesia to the corruption behind the scenes that causes so many human rights abuses in West Papua."

On Wednesday, PFF had been close to releasing a review of events and statements from World Press Freedom Day 2015 when Al Jazeera broadcast an interview with President Jokowi, during which the promise was made to free up access to foreign press "from tomorrow."

Until that moment, the best news of the press year was another promise: of a review of the Fiji media decree.

"Fiji freedoms have long been important to the region," says Gabi.

"It is great to see the Fiji Media Industry Development Authority actually talk about being open to more people having a say on the future of the media decree."

PFF is also welcoming a statement from Fiji-based media body PINA, the Pacific Islands News Association.

"Their commitment to work hand-in-hand with government shows transparency about their agenda," says Gabi.

"We encourage PINA to advocate effectively behind the scenes for a confident and well-informed news media, as called for ten years ago in the 2005 regional report, Informing Citizens."

In other regional news, PFF joins PINA in welcoming the formation of the Fijian Media Association (FMA) last year and revival and election of the Media Council of PNG.

PFF also welcomes the reformation of the Cook Islands Media Association last year.

PFF Co-Chair Monica Miller says forum members were pleased at the lack of attack year on news media workers in the region's most dangerous area, West Papua.

"It seems that the word has finally gone out from Jakarta to the military thugs in Jayapura and beyond - leave the media alone."
"However we cannot say the same for human rights activists and ordinary citizens expressing their freedoms of speech.

"The shooting of citizens gathering to fund-raise funds for victims of the cyclone in Vanuatu was an astonishing new low, apalling even for Indonesia."

PFF says that the last year saw strong growth of support among citizen groups advocating greater freedoms for West Papua, along with increased press coverage and high level statements, including from the United Nations.

At that regional level, PFF also welcomed strong support in New Zealand for news media, after more than 60,000 people signed a petition calling on private channel TV3 to not drop its popular current affairs programme, Campbell Live.

"News media in New Zealand have long been a backstop for press freedoms in the Pacific, as has those of Australia," says Miller.

"However governments and most political parties in both countries have taken an increasingly hostile stance towards media."

A recent debate called by the Fabian Society in Auckland shows deepening concern about journalism and the future of democracy in New Zealand. 

Massive cutbacks to public media in Australia, and continuing funding freezes in New Zealand, continues to undermine development efforts across the region, says Miller.

"Less scrutiny means less stability, and that can lead to less security for the entire region," she says.

PFF recognises the continuing efforts of press freedom monitors such as UNESCO, IFJ, RSF, PINA and recent attention from internet freedom body Access Now.

* An online review did not reveal any #wpfd news for American Samoa, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Niue, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Tuvalu or Wallis and Futuna.


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PFF Chair Titi Gabi | GM PNG Loop | Papua New Guinea Mail: PO Box 7776, Boroko, NCD, Papua New Guinea | Mob: (675) 7314 3929 | Email:

PFF co-Chair Monica Miller | KHJ Radio | American Samoa Mob (684) 258-4197 | Office (684) 633-7793 | Email:

PFF Editor Jason Brown | Aotearoa New Zealand | Mob: +(64) 224340831 | Email

The Pacific Freedom Forum are a regional and global online network of Pacific media colleagues, with the specific intent of raising awareness and advocacy of the right of Pacific people to enjoy freedom of expression and be served by a free and independent media. We believe in the critical and basic link between these freedoms, and the vision of democratic and participatory governance pledged by our leaders in their endorsement of the Pacific Plan and other commitments to good governance. In support of the above, our key focus is monitoring threats to media freedom and bringing issues of concern to the attention of the wider regional and international community.

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