The Working Group for the Safety of Papuan Land Journalists was launched on April 1 in Jayapura, the capital of Papua province, involving journalist organizations, indigenous people and Church organizations.
The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), which formed the working group, said the initiative was sparked by concerns over cases of violence against journalists in Papua.
The Franciscans' Secretariat for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation and the Synod of the Indonesian Christian Church in the Land of Papua are part of the group.
Other institutions are the Press Council, Press Legal Aid Institute, Papua Journalist Safety Committee, Papua Cyber Media Association, Papua Land Press Legal Aid Association, and the Democracy Alliance for Papua.
According to AJI, 11 cases of atrocities against journalists were registered in Papua between 2021 and March 2023.
In the latest case on March 13 in Sorong, southwest Papua province, a mob intimidated a local media, Teropong News, to stop reporting on illegal logging.
In a molotov cocktail attack in January, the house of Victor Mambor, a senior journalist from tabloid Jubi, was targeted. Previously, his car was damaged by unknown people.
Papua, the easternmost region in Indonesia, has seen conflict since becoming part of Indonesia in 1969 with continued resistance by armed pro-independence groups.
The province is ranked 33 among the country's 34 provinces as per the Press Freedom Index released by the Press Council in January last year.
The Indonesian government restricts foreign journalists from visiting the region.
With the formation of the working group, every form of intimidation and violence against journalists can be dealt with immediately, the AJI said in the statement.
The AJI noted that there are still Internet disruptions in Jayapura to limit journalists from reporting incidents.
Korneles Siep from the Franciscans' Secretariat for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation said the role of journalists to independently "report information on Papua is very important in the midst of systematic attempts to cover up what is actually happening on the ground."
Father John Djonga, an activist priest, said the working group would be a guarantee for journalists to be more courageous in writing news about Papua.
"I hope this working group will also become a forum for fighting for wider access for journalists to Papua, including foreign journalists," he told UCA News.
Asep Setiawan of the Press Council said that the working group's aim is to help journalists carry out "their duties in the context of building independence and democracy in Indonesia."