Indonesia relaxes Papuan internet ban 

Indonesia has partially relaxed an internet blackout imposed following violent protests in Papua, but it has not restored connections in the worst affected areas.

The archipelago’s far-east has seen its most serious unrest in years since mid-August over perceived ethnic discrimination of Papuan students in Java.

The Indonesian Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva has briefed the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. Ambassador Hasan Kleib said his team detailed efforts in “law enforcement, dialogue and persuasion” in the troubled provinces. 

About 6,000 extra police and soldiers have been deployed to the two provinces of Papua and West Papua, that already have a large security presence.

After slowing online speeds, the government cut the internet to both provinces on August 21.

The communications ministry said it would continue to monitor the situation in areas where the internet was not being restored. 

The ministry said in a statement that the security situation had “normalised” while “the spread of hoax information, lies, expressions of hatred, provocations related to Papuan issues, had begun to decline”.

Poverty remains highest, in relative terms, in the provinces of Papua, West Papua and Maluku, all located in the far east of Indonesia, according to Jakarta’s Statistics Agency.

The authorities have named prominent Papuan rights lawyer Veronica Koman as a suspect for spreading “fake news”, saying her posts provoked widespread unrest.

She faces charges under the Electronic Information and Transactions Law, which is labelled as repressive by government critics. The charges carry up to six years in prison.

The lawyer posted about the incident in Surabaya last month where the Javan security forces were filmed calling Papuan students “monkeys” and “dogs”, sparking the riots in Papua.

The East Java police said Koman provoked the Papuan riots by spreading fake news and provocative material.

The Indonesian police contacted Interpol because Koman is believed to be abroad.

Indonesia’s National Commission of Human Rights said the lawyer only attempted to post “necessary information from a different point of view”.

Usman Hamid of Amnesty International Indonesia condemned the charges.“The root of the real problem is the act of racism by some members of the TNI [Indonesian army] and the excessive use of force by the police in the student dormitory in Surabaya,” Usman said, according to tirto.id.

Her posts during the Papuan rioting provided a rare source about the realities in the ethnically distinct provinces from which foreign journalists are denied access.

 

The outlawed Morning Star flag at a protest. The Papuan riots were the most violent in years. Picture credit: YouTube