Six Japanese journalists trying to make a documentary have been deported by the Indonesian authorities from the province of Papua.
The team was working for the Nagano Production House and making a documentary about tribes in Wamena without the correct visas, said immigration officer Yopie Watimena.
Indonesia regularly refuses journalists access to its huge, scarcely populated easternmost provinces of West Papua and Papua, where a low-level insurgency against rule from Jakarta has continued for decades. The men were deported days after Jakarta hosted the UN’s World Press Freedom Day.
The documentary makers were sent to the provincial capital Jayapura for questioning before being deported.
They reportedly had standard tourist visas, said Watimena.
In March, two French journalists were deported after being arrested without the correct visas while making a documentary in Papua.
To cover Papua, journalists need the normal media visa and then have to follow a complex procedure that involves applying for permission from multiple agencies. Few applicants are successful.
President Joko Widodo announced in 2015 that the restrictions would be lifted.
“Jokowi” was in Papua this week (pictured), riding an all-terrain trail motorbike over new dirt roads in Wamena in the Papua highlands. The unfinished road is part of his 4,300km Trans-Papua road project.
The “hands-on” president and military chief General Gatot Nurmantyo travelled in a military convoy and troops have been deployed during the construction process, suggesting a perceived security threat.
During his February trip to Australia, the president told Indonesian students: “We’re working on the Trans-Papua road morning, noon and night. What for? So that justice is served, [progress] should be felt even in the remotest parts of Indonesia.”
Jokowi said the dirt roads would be sealed at a later date.
The Public Works and Housing Ministry said it hoped to open the Trans-Papua road next year.
Jokowi also attended a ceremony to mark the start of construction of a gas-powered mobile power plant in Jayapura.
Benny Wenda, a Papuan tribal chief exiled in Oxford, Britain, told the Asia Pacific Report that other Melanesian nations needed to help the provinces gain independence.
“If we live with Indonesia for another 50 years, we will not be safe. We will not be safe with Indonesia.
“We really need Pacific Islanders, our sisters and brothers across the Pacific – particularly New Zealand and Australia – to bring West Papua back to its Pacific family. Then we can survive. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to survive with Indonesia,” Wenda said.
President Joko Widodo on his motorbike in Papua this week. Picture credit: YouTube