Friday, December 23, 2011

Correcting the West Papuan media blackout

CURIOUS how much of our media privileges the elite sources, yet attempts to marginalise independent media groups that are providing critical news and analysis on the stories left out of the mainstream news agenda. Take West Papua, for example. While the world’s media grasped the “people’s freedom" digital media with enthusiasm during the Arab Spring in the Middle East, other groups comprising journalists providing far more thorough media coverage and resources in our own Pacific backyard are treated as “activists”. This open letter from the Australian-based West Papua Media editor Nick Chesterfield, written after coverage of the allegations of 17 Papuans being killed by Indonesian security forces in the Paniai area, is a good insight into the media struggle to get West Papua above the radar.

For the record - open letter from West Papua Media

Description of both West Papua Media, and that of independent human rights monitors Elsham as "pro-independence groups" , is both inaccurate, misleading, discrediting, and is highly dangerous to the safety for both our journalists and also for Elsham's human rights investigators.

I cannot speak for Elsham, but like us, they are not pro-independence. They are mandated exclusively to conduct scientific research and analysis of human rights violations in West Papua according to internationally recognised methodologies, and have received significant scientific training internationally to carry out this. They are not part of the pro-independence movement.
West Papua Media is an independent media outlet, focused on bypassing the media blackout of West Papua by reporting factual, verifiable, and real time content and providing it to the world's media. We are all journalists, both professional and traditionally trained, and also from a new generation of citizen journalists.

We provide a clear training programme for our journalists on reporting under repressive contexts, and have long and established relationships with many news organisations globally - including Fairfax. We are both a media agency in the traditional sense, and an outlet in our own right. West Papua Media is overseen by a team of six editors internationally - three of whom are journalists, several sub-editors who also work for major newswires and two human rights workers - and we have an extensive network averaging 10 stringers in sixteen locations in Papua.

Each location is overseen by at least one qualified journalist, all members of the Indonesian Alliance for Independent Journalists, and all of our stringers have been providing consistent, credible and verifiable coverage after training in our Safe Witness Journalism units. Our journalists outside the country are all members of our national journalists' union (AJA/MEAA for myself) and everyone of us holds IFJ membership.

What West Papua Media is not, is "pro-independence". We are journalists, whose sole mandate is to report the news from West Papua, including items that are critical of pro-independence forces, tactics, and policies: a principled position that has occasionally cost us access and relationships to certain sectors of Papuan resistance. Telling the truth of what is happening, by adhering to tried and trusted journalistic methodology , and exposing the truth, is not being "pro-independence". It is doing what journalism used to be about - Giving voice to the voiceless.

While we attempt to seek comment from the killers and plunderers in Papua, they generally do not wish to comment to us. That is their silence, that does not lessen our work as journalists.

By labeling us as pro-independence, which we are not, you are putting our people on the ground at great risk of arrest, torture and murder, and charges of subversion, something which should concern you given the amount of journalists, including our stringers, who were murdered or threatened in West Papua over recent years.

Nick Chesterfield
Papua Media

Merry Christmas and all the best for 2012 to all.


Anonymous said...

Does that mean asking Project Censored critical questions should be encouraged?

westpapuamedia said...

I am not sure what this question has to do with Media Freedom and the media blackspot in West Papua, nor what the link with Project Censored has to with this. Asking critical questions is very different to still refusing to give credibility when those questions have been answered. Critical questions need to asked of the mainstream media why they are ignoring this.

Anonymous said...


What the Project censored link demonstrates is that, if bucket loads of critical questions on Sept 11 are given thimble full of answers; also means the same treatment is given to West Papua.

Also time to realize who controls the news and Operation Mockingbird

One will notice that rhetoric on Syria and Iran have been recently scaling up in 24hr news channels like CNN, AL Jazeera and parroted by Aust and NZ news outlets; begging for a R2P intervention like Libya.

Is West Papua issue on the wrong side of the global corporate agenda?

That is the extent of the Mighty Wurlitzer.

Keep in mind, 'Who pays the piper calls the tune'.

Whats in your wallet?

westpapuamedia said...

ok thats cool, and very true - the "global corporate agenda" is very much against anything being spoken about Papua - hence why we are fighting this so hard.

As for what's in my wallet? Haha - not a lot, apart from a press card, a passport, my pro-bono lawyer's number, and a couple of empty bank cards. Any money I do get, goes to civil media development in Papua. (of course if you feel like donating its always appreciated ;-> ).

Our work is precisely a defence against the Mighty Wurlizter - so that the voice of local media on the ground can ask the questions of the perpetrators - and get the answers from the people who see it happening.

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