Freedom of expression in Indonesia is not improving, and the situation is of increasing concern where the opinion being expressed is critical of the human rights situation of West Papuans.
On Thursday 17th March 2022, hundreds of militia members of Laskar Merah Putih, (Red and White Warriors) demonstrated outside the office of Amnesty International Indonesia (AII). They accused both Usman Hamid, Director of Amnesty International Indonesia and his organisation, of being provocateurs and of acting for foreign interests, and undermining Indonesia's sovereignty. This followed Amnesty International Indonesia's denunciation of the labelling of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB-OPM) as a terrorist group, and AII's frequent criticism of human rights violations in West Papua.
The following day, the Greater Jakarta Metropolitan Regional Police designated the Director of Lokataru, Haris Azhar, and the Coordinator of the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), Fatia Maulidiyanti, as suspects of having committed defamation. The two of them had previously been reported to the police by the Coordinating Minister for Maritime and Investment Affairs, Luhut Binsar Panjaitan on 22 September 2021, based on their names being mentioned on the NgeHAMtam talk show titled "Lord Luhut is behind the Economy-Military Operations link in Intan Jaya!! And the General of BIN!!" on the YouTube account of Haris Azhar. What was discussed during the programme was based not on assumptions, but a collaborative investigative report involving a number of organisations working on economic-political militarisation in Intan Jaya, Papua Province.
We believe that the incidents experienced by AII, Haris and Fatia are part of an effort by the Indonesian government and high-ranking officials to silence those who are critical of the situation in West Papua. The demonstration and accusations of defamation came when AII, Haris and Fatia were in the middle of highlighting potential human rights violations resulting from business expansion – involving retired generals and high-ranking government officials – in exploiting West Papua's natural resources, particularly in Blok Wabu, a relatively new gold-mining concession in Intan Jaya. The impact of this expansion on the human rights situation and democratic freedoms in West Papua should not be underestimated, as investment in certain areas has often resulted in marginalisation, silencing and even killings of local residents.
We call on the Indonesian government to stop all forms of repression against human rights defenders. The government must revoke the permit for mining in Blok Wabu, which has the potential to worsen and escalate the conflict in Intan Jaya. The government must fulfill its promise and implement protection and respect for human rights. We call on the government to respect the right to self-determination, allow international observers into West Papua, and open peaceful dialogue with pro-independence groups, mediated by a neutral party, on the condition of withdrawal of organic and non-organic security forces from the Land of West Papua.