President Joko Widodo made a historic decision when he publicly announced in front of the nation’s security chiefs on Sunday that foreign journalists now can freely enter Papua. This is a huge boost for the image of Joko and Indonesia internationally, after the president received worldwide condemnation for executing 15 drug convicts, mostly foreign citizens, so far this year.
His policy to allow foreign journalists to cover everything in the nation’s two easternmost provinces — Papua and West Papua — is a significant step forward that will allow the international community to finally monitor conditions there.
What the international community believes is that there continue to be rampant human right violations in the provinces — including torture and shootings — committed by the country’s security forces. The opening up means there will be no more secrets. Any act of violence will be known by journalists and such information will spread around the globe quickly. Joko’s decision will thus drastically lessen violence and other human rights violations in the provinces.
Whether or not this is just an attempt to fix his image, we should welcome and laud Joko’s brave and historic move to repeal a policy that has lasted ever since Papua joined Indonesia 46 years ago.
This bold move also means that Joko is confident that there is nothing to hide. Allowing foreign media is the right move to weaken the push for independence in the region: If all is well, why resist?
However, we do still need to make sure the decision is actually implemented. We have seen too often that Joko’s policies aren’t carried out by relevant officials. Police insubordination in the conflict with the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) is one blatant example that makes Joko look like a lame duck. Let’s hope it’s different in Papua.