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Police arrest Russian tourist for taking photos at market in Paniai, Papua

Suara Papua - March 14, 2024

Stevanus Yogi, Paniai – A Russian tourist and photographer named Shmatov Ivan Aleksandrovich was arrested by security forces in Earotali, East Paniai district, Paniai regency, Central Papua, on Monday March 11.

Aleksandrovich was arrested at the intersection of Jalan Pasar Earotali while photographing social activities in the market at around 10 am. Not accepting his arrest, many people in the vicinity who witnessed the incident became angry, such as his close friend Yulvin Mote.

"After finding out and not accepting this, who knows, because they felt disturbed seeing my friend taking pictures of the community who were active at the market, the authorities immediately moved in to forbid, arrest and take him to their headquarters", Mote explained to Suara Papua in Aenarotali Wednesday March 13.

According to Mote, the bule (slang for white person) was arrested and taken to the police headquarters for further questioning.

Mote said his colleague was a special cultural photographer, not a journalist or human rights activist from an independent international institution, which the state is always afraid will visit the land of Papua.

"He's my friend. I know very well that he has a job as a photographer, specifically about culture. Nothing more than that. So, his goal in going to Paniai was because he wanted to record the cultural and religious activities of the Mee tribe which still exists today, namely the religion of 'Bunaanii' up close. That was after I had a lot of discussions with him before about our culture and religion. Then because he was interested, so he come to Paniai", he explained.

Meanwhile the reason his colleague took pictures at the market, added Mote, was only because he wanted to capture a personal memory of having visited Paniai.

"Now, where is the fault? Is it because he's a bule, so it made then upset? While his own purpose for going to Paniai is clear", he said rather annoyed.

This was not only an arbitrary arrest, according to Mote, the state through its tools of power continuously prevent all outside access to any information about the land and the people of Papua.

"Supposing he was a journalist or activist, why does the country have to be afraid and prohibit them? It's very surprising, every bule who wants to come or has been in Papua is always restricted and their activities closely monitored on the grounds of state security. The state must stop this! Our culture of the Mee tribe [and all ethnic groups in Papua] needs to be preserved so that one day they can be remembered by their children and grandchildren", he asserted.

Regarding the arrest of his colleague, Mote said that after being detained and questioned for several hours he was released. "He was released and immediately departed for Nabire in a car", continued Mote.

Separately, James Bunai, one of the traditional and cultural leaders of Paniai who spoke with Suara Papua in Earotali on Wednesday, also condemned the arrest of the photographer.

"I can't talk about the problem of Papuan independence, they just arrested the bule. But according to the information that I heard, he came to take photos or videos of the Mee tribe culture, so I really don't like it if there are arrests like that. Why do officials prohibit it? We have a religious culture of 'Bunaanii' that many outsiders do not know about", said Bunai.

[Translated by James Balowski. The name of the Russian national was sourced separately from an April 3 Human Rights Monitor report. The original title of the article was "Seorang Fotografer Asal Rusia Ditangkap Apkam di Paniai".]

Source: https://suarapapua.com/2024/03/14/seorang-fotografer-asal-rusia-ditangkap-apkam-di-paniai