Victor Mambor, Jayapura – Internet blackout occurred in Jayapura's Waena and lasted for around three hours on Wednesday, August 25, 2021, Netblocks confirmed. Netblocks is a watchdog organization tracking disruptions and shutdowns to safeguard internet freedom.
"This disruption had impact at the network layer, fixed line, and cellular internet in Jayapura, from 12 p.m. local time lasting around 3 hours," Netblocks' director of Research Isik Mater tweeted on Wednesday.
This disruption had impact at the network layer, fixed line and cellular internet. Jayapura, from ~12 p.m. local time lasting around 3 hours. pic.twitter.com/cBIEWqnH9F
State-owned telecommunication giant PT Telkom said that the disruption was caused by the broken fiber optic cable due to tree felling activities by the Papua Plantation and Cleanliness Agency and Telkom in Skyland, Jayapura City. A picture broadcasted by the media, previously circulating in Whatsapp groups, depicts the fiber optic cable hanging from a pole that is being repaired by Telkom workers.
"We are sorry that the fiber optic cable for the Abe-Jayapura segment is broken. Our cables comprises planted ground cables and aerial cables, which are hung in the air using poles," said Sugeng Widodo, PT Telkom's general manager for Papua.
However, rights watchdog Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet) says the 3-hour internet shutdown in Jayapura-Waena-Abepura should be seen within context, wherein leading up to the blackout, internet disruption also occurred in Jayapura in early August.
"Regarding the recent internet blackout, there are two allegations according to Papuans. The first is regarding the arrival of President Joko Widodo to Papua on August 26 and the second, the trial of Victor Yeimo on August 26. Jokowi is said to be visiting Papua, according to the media, to review the National Games. But he canceled the visit," Executive director of SAFEnet Damar Juniarto told Jubi on Thursday.
Juniarto also said that Victor Yeimo's trial had been in the spotlight, with many statements and political pressure spreading on social media calling for Victor Yeimo's release.
Victor Yeimo is the international spokesperson of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) who is being detained by the police and will stand trial for allegedly provoking riots in antiracism protests in 2019. Yeimo, however, has denied the allegation, saying he did not even participate in the said protest.
"Before yesterday's blackout, we also recorded a 30-minute blackout on August 1, wherein phone service and internet connections were cut off in Jayapura City, even though the 4G and wifi signals were full," Juniarto said.
The disruption on August 1 lasted from 10.15 to 11.05 p.m and affected internet services in Jayapura, Abepura, and Sentani. There was a report that a group of Papuan people and students planned to stage an antiracism protest the next day, protesting against the Air Force soldiers who stepped on a Papuan's head on July 27. Though, there are no valid sources confirming the protest on August 2.
Later on the same day, Telkom explained that the 30-minute blackout occurred because the fiber optic cable plant in the ground in front of the Papua Police headquarters broke due to excavation work using heavy equipment.