EngageMedia Blog

Free West Papua Campaign Launches Global Petition for Independence Referendum

by Tara Nissl November 07, 2017

West Papua Referendum Petition

On 24 January 2017, the Free West Papua Campaign launched a global petition on AVAAZ in support of the Westminster Declaration demanding an internationally supervised referendum for West Papua.

A supervised referendum would enable Papuans to vote on independence – a chance that activists claim they were robbed of in the 1969 “Act of Free Choice”, when less than 0.01% of the population were allegedly handpicked and coerced to vote for integration with Indonesia.

In just a few days since its launch, the petition has already garnered 11,611 signatures, passing its initial goal of 10,000 and still accepting more contributions.

The global petition will remain open until August 2017. It will then be carried by the Swim for West Papua Team across 69 kilometres of Lake Geneva and personally handed to António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

West Papua’s struggle for independence gained international attention when seven Pacific Island nations raised the issue of Indonesia’s human rights abuses in Papua to the UN General Assembly in September 2016.

In October, the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination initiated an early warning and urgent action procedure, and requested Indonesia to formally respond to allegations of racial violence by mid-November. There are no records of their response.

The Free West Papua Campaign recently launched the hashtags #BackTheSwim and #LetWestPapuaVote on social media.The global petition can be signed here.

Yangon Nights: Film Screenings for Minority Rights

by EM News January 26, 2017

Khaw Than Yangon

After the success of our first indoor screening on 23 October 2016, we decided to host a second indoor screening for the Khaw Than minority rights film series at Phandeeyar. Over 80 people attended the event and the discussion panel with the filmmakers went really well.

Khaw Than Yangon

Then on 30 December 2016, in collaboration with the Yangon Youth Network, we held our final screening at the Kyinmyintaing tea shop, where we showcased a selection from the Khaw Than series including, 'Sound of Silence', 'My Mother is Single', 'A Letter from Civil War' and 'I Wanna Go to School'. The films addressed ethnic, women and children’s rights.

The rustic tea shop was the perfect place to hold our night of documentary screening. Whether sipping on Myanmar tea and samusar, a premium coffee, or a soft drink, the tasty drinks and friendly atmosphere was sure to put our audience at ease.

Khaw Than Yangon

Most of the people at the event felt free to join in and share their thoughts, both before and after the screening. One of the attendees commented, “Screening documentaries in tea shops is really great. You can watch documentaries at home but in this kind of venue, you can discuss your point of view with different people. I think this is the difference between watching a documentary at home and here.”

Istirahatlah Kata-Kata: A Film Review

by Tara Nissl January 31, 2017

Istirahatlah Kata-Kata, the critically acclaimed film about poet-cum-activist Wiji Thukul, premiered last week in 14 cities across Indonesia.

The film depicts the period of Wiji Thukul’s life when he was on the run from Indonesian authorities during the Suharto government’s crackdown on intellectuals and activists in 1996. Thukul was forced to flee from his hometown in Solo, Central Java to Pontianak, Kalimantan for eight months, moving houses and changing names to shield his identity.

In May 1998, when he returned to Java to participate in anti-government protests, Thukul suddenly disappeared. His whereabouts are still unknown today.

Istirahatlah Kata-kata

Before director Yosep Anggi Noen’s film, most people knew about Wiji Thukul because of an infamous line from his poem, “Peringatan” ("Warning”). It was supposedly the most-quoted line of poetry towards the end of Suharto’s regime: “Hanya ada satu kata: lawan!” (There is only one word: fight!”)

However, those expecting an action-packed film in Istirahatlah Kata-Kata will be gravely disappointed. Instead, the film is a quiet and poetic take on Thukul’s days of hiding, and explores the more solemn themes of isolation, loneliness, paranoia and fear. It also portrays the difficulties faced by Thukul’s wife and children, whom he had to leave behind in Solo, and who are continuously interrogated by the police.

These are emotions that anyone can relate to, and that we do not typically associate with grandiose heroes. In this way, Noen has humanised Thukul. The result is a moving film about a poet who touched the lives of millions of Indonesians with simple but compelling words.

“The movie is my attempt to see Wiji Thukul’s spirit, who is able to note down his daily life into powerful words,” Noen said in an interview with the Jakarta Post.

He also said during the premiere in Pontianak that he wanted the movie to “serve as a reminder for the young generation about missing activists.” (Jakarta Post)

Wiji Thukul is one of thirteen activists still missing since 1997-1998. The other activists include Suyat, Yan Afri, Sonny, M. Yusuf, Noval Alkatiri, Dedy Hamdun, Ismail, Bimo Petrus, Abdun Naser, Hendra Hambali, Ucok Siahaan, and Yadin Muhidin (Stop Impunity).

Istirahatlah Kata-Kata has participated in various international and local film festivals, receiving nominations in Germany, Switzerland, Russia and the Philippines. It also won the Golden Hanoman Award at the Jogja Asian Film Festival and 2016 Best Film by Tempo magazine.

Indonesia Blocks Nearly 800,000 Websites Including Suara Papua

by Tara Nissl January 17, 2017

Suara Papua Website

Several days ago, the Indonesian government announced that it had blocked 800,000 websites since December 2016. According to Samuel Abrijani Pangerapan, the director general of Information Application at the Communications and Information Ministry, 90% of these websites contained pornographic or gambling material, while “some were simply spreading hoaxes” (Jakarta Post).

Pangerapan stressed that the government did not block journalistic websites. Journalists must abide by the Law on the Press and register with the Press Council, he argued, and claimed that “journalistic” websites lacking these credentials were therefore lawfully censored (Tempo).

His statement comes just a month after the Legal Aid Institute for the Press (LBH Pers) condemned the government’s shutdown of the news website, suarapapua.com, for containing “negative” content.

Suarapapua.com regularly covers human rights violations in West Papua, such as the recent illegal detention of peaceful demonstrators (including a newborn and children aged 4-17 years) who participated in the Trikora protests in December 2016 (Suara Papua).

Activists at LBH Pers are considering taking legal action against President Joko Widodo’s administration for violations against the freedom of press under Article 18 of the 1999 Press Law (Jakarta Post).

According to Pangerapan, the owners of blocked websites can appeal to a control and monitoring body and request for “normalisation” (i.e. the lift of censorship) after meeting certain requirements. However, it is unclear what these requirements demand of websites such as suarapapua.com.

Pangerapan encouraged Indonesian citizens to seek more details at the website http://trustpositif.kominfo.go.id/, which states that the purpose of TRUST+ is the “protection of society against ethical values, morals and rules that do not fit the image of the Indonesian Nation.”

As of 11 January 2017, more than 766,000 websites were blocked for pornography, 2100 for gambling, 85 for radicalism, 23 for SARA (secular sentiment) and 2 for security. There have also been 264 cases of “normalisation”.

Despite the government’s positive spin on TRUST+ and its censorship program, these developments reflect a worrying trend in increased online surveillance (read more: Digital Freedom and Privacy Under Attack in Indonesia). Digital rights, which have gained significant popularity and attention since Edward Snowden, include the rights to information and privacy, both of which are being violated in Indonesia.