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August 23, 2019 - Updated on August 26, 2019

News reporting hit by Internet blackout in West Papua

During a protest outside the ministry of communication and information technology in Jakarta on 23 August, a demonstrator brandishes a #KeeptItOn sign denouncing the Internet blackout in West Papua (right). The blackout is the next step after dispatching soldiers to the region (left). (Photos: DASRIL ROSZANDI / AFP , ANI / Free Press Journal)
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for an immediate end to a two-day-old Internet blackout in West Papua, where Indonesian security forces have been clashing with Papuan pro-independence demonstrators. The blackout violates the freedom to inform and makes it hard for journalists to work, RSF said.

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.