Internet access in West Papua was initially slowed down and then disconnected altogether on 21 August in what the information ministry called a “temporary” measure designed “to accelerate the process of restoring the security and order situation in Papua and the surrounding areas,” where violent protests have been taking place.
As a result of the blackout, journalists reporting in the field have been finding it extremely difficult to transmit their stories, photos and video, and to contact their news organizations and sources.
“Cutting Internet access prevents journalists from covering the situation and encourages rumours, at the risk of fuelling instability in the region,” RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk said. “This measure constitutes a disproportionate violation of the right to information and freedom of expression, which underpin all democracies. We urge the Indonesian government to reconnect the Internet without delay.”
Violent protests and rioting began in West Papua on 17 August after police raided a student campus to arrest young Papuans accessed of removing the Indonesia flag. The raid triggered multiple clashes between the security forces and pro-independence activists, and has prompted the Indonesian authorities to dispatch 1,000 soldiers to the region.
Indonesia is ranked 124th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.