PM should press SBY on media ban during today’s meeting

Prime Minister Gillard should use today’s meeting with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to advocate for an end to the effective ban that prevents the international media reporting from West Papua, a leading human rights group has said. A spokesperson for the Human Rights Law Centre, Tom Clarke, said Prime Minister Gillard should make the most of Australia’s special relationship with Indonesia to suggest tangible steps that Indonesian authorities could take to end the escalating human rights abuses occurring in its eastern most province.

“The situation in Papua is a tinderbox. Last month’s fatal police shooting of a political activist along with yet more reports of military violence in remote villages reveal how on edge Papua is. Australia can and should play a proactive role in standing up for human rights and encouraging our closest neighbour to halt the violence,” Mr Clarke said.

Mr Clarke said there is no good reason why the PM should not directly ask President Yudhoyono to allow international journalists into West Papua.

“Media access is such a simple and reasonable request, yet its impact would be profound. Having independent journalists on the ground in West Papua would help the world get a better picture of the human rights crisis unfolding there,” Mr Clarke said.

In addition to calling on the Australian Government to push for free media access, the Human Rights Law Centre continues to urge the Government to request Indonesia to release all persons detained in Papua for the peaceful expression of their political views, and not conflate the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and dissent with criminal activity.

“The default policy of successive Australian Governments has been to simply turn a blind eye, but today’s meeting presents an opportunity for Prime Minister Gillard to change this. It’s not in our interests to have a festering human rights problem on our doorstep and it’s certainly not in the interests of the people of West Papua,” Mr Clarke said.