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On Wednesday, April 29, an international group of protesters gathered at the Indonesian consulate near Central Park in New York to call for an end to restrictions on access to West Papua. New Yorkers were joined by a number of West Papuans who were in New York for the UN's annual indigenous peoples' forum, as well as Indonesians, Australians, and Hawaiians, and others, to urged Presidents Jokowi Widodo to fulfill his promise to open the region.
Protesters leafletted and otherwise engaged passers-by and members of the consulate staff. Many of the protesters wore all-black clothing to symbolize the media blackout in Papua.
ETAN also delivered a letter to the consulate and the Indonesian embassy in Washington, DC, asking "what is Indonesia hiding in West Papua?" The letter urges "the end to restrictions on access to Papua" and says "the media blackout in Papua denies the Papuan people the right to have their voices heard and allows human rights violations such as killings, torture and arbitrary arrests to continue with impunity." It was organized by Tapol and signed by 52 Papuan, Indonesian and international groups and parliamentarians (including ETAN and the West Papua Advocacy Team).
"Why are there such heavy restrictions on access to West Papua?" asked John M. Miller, coordinator of ETAN. "Indonesia's President Joko Widodo should fulfill his promise to end the barriers to journalists, human rights investigators and humanitarian organizations working in the region."
West Papua is one of the world's most isolated conflict spots. For decades, indigenous activists campaigning for their rights have been arrested, disappeared, tortured and killed. Local journalists who uncover the truth face lethal risks. Foreign journalists trying to report on Papua have been arrested, deported, and even imprisoned. One by one, international humanitarian organizations have closed their Papua offices. Access for UN human rights observers has been closed for eight years. Until Indonesia lifts the repressive restrictions on access to Papua, Indonesian security forces and paramilitaries are free to act with total impunity, and indigenous Papuans will continue to be killed.