Military members intimidate journalists in Sorong

Members of the Indonesian Navy (TNI AL) have been accused of intimidating journalists who were collecting information about the death of a Navy (TNI_AL) member at the Lantamal XIV/Sorong Navy headquarters in Sorong on 9 July 2024. Amnesty International Indonesia, represented by Executive Director Usman Hamid, condemned these actions as violations of human rights and press freedom guaranteed by Indonesian law. Hamid stressed that such intimidation is a serious breach of Law No. 40/1999 on the Press, which ensures journalists’ legal protection and right to seek and disseminate information. The Papuan human rights NGO LP3BH Manokwari highlighted the inappropriate conduct of the Navy personnel, as the journalists were performing their duties following the Press Law.

A group of journalists met near the Lantamal XIV/Sorong headquarters in Bubara Street, Klaligi Village, Sorong City, on 9 July 2024, when they were approached and threatened by a Navy member. The intimidation involved verbal threats and attempts to obstruct the media coverage. The Navy member forced a journalist to unlock and hand over his mobile phone while threatening to drive the group of journalists away from Bubara Street. As the conflicting situation was taking place more navy members approached and obstructed the group. Not accepting this treatment, the journalists informed the military members that press work is protected by Law No 40/1999 concerning the Press. The tension increased with the presence of many navy members at Bubara Street and the refusal of the journalist to leave. One navy member threatened to arrest the journalists who finally decided to leave.

Acts of intimidation or physical attacks against journalists must be considered a violation of Article 18 (1) of Law No 40/1999 concerning the Pres. The article stipulates that “Any person who unlawfully deliberately takes an action that has the effect of hindering or obstructing the implementation of the provisions of Article 4 paragraphs (2) and (3) shall be punished with imprisonment of 2 (two) years or a maximum fine of Rp500,000,000” (about € 28,500).

The incident in Sorong underscores the challenging environment for journalists working in West Papua. The region has a history of conflict and human rights abuses, making press freedom even more critical. Repressive actions by security force members endanger journalists and deprive the public of their right to accurate and objective information. The responses from Amnesty International and LP3BH Manokwari call for strict action against the perpetrators. This incident highlights the need for protection for journalists to ensure a working environment free of violence or intimidation.