Investigation into bomb attack against Papuan journalist Victor Mambor officially closed

The detonation of a bomb in front of the house inhabited by Papuan journalist Mr Victor Mambor, in the city of Jayapura (see photo on top, source: Jubi), Papua Province, on 23 January 2023, has again raised concerns over the freedom of expression and safety of human rights defenders in West Papua, Indonesia. In May 2023, the police issued a Letter of Investigation Termination (SP3) for the case. The investigation did not bring any notable results. The perpetrator and the motive behind the attack remain unclear. The Indonesian Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), the Journalist Safety Committee, and the Press Legal Aid Institute (LBH Pers) have criticised the termination of the police investigation. They accused the Jayapura City police (Polresta Jayapura) and the Papua Regional Police Polda Papua) of being unprofessional in handling the case.

In this regard, Ika Ningtyas, the Secretary General of AJI Indonesia, particularly pointed out the lack of communication and transparency from the police in notifying Mr Mambor and his relatives about the developments in the investigation. Despite the discovery of evidence, such as CCTV footage recorded during the incident and the remains of chemicals at the explosion site, the investigation was abruptly terminated, and the SP3 letter was issued.

The Journalist Safety Committee stressed that the attack on Victor Mambor was an act of terror against all journalists in West Papua. The police focused on the material evidence rather than the broader implications for press freedom. The termination of the police investigation raises further questions about impunity and the perpetuation of fear among journalists. This is particularly concerning as Mr Mambor was repeatedly subjected to intimidation and harassment before the incident. 

The bomb attack against Victor Mambor was also raised in the Annual Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General, published on 21 August 2023. The report states:

“The case of Mr. Victor Mambor, affiliated with the newspaper Tabloid Jubi and The Jakarta Post, was included in the 2021 report of the Secretary-General108 on allegations of acts of harassment, intimidation and threats for reporting on the situation in West Papua and Papua provinces (Papua region), that included engaging with OHCHR (IDN 7/2019109). On 10 March 2023, special procedures mandate holders addressed three incidents against Mr. Mambor: a bomb attack outside his residence in January 2023, the earlier vandalization of his car in May 2022, and the hacking and deletion of his twitter account in 2022. Reportedly, these incidents took place after Mr. Mambor had shared a video depicting violent acts by the Indonesian security forces. Mandate holders expressed concern for his safety and retaliation against his human rights work. (IDN 1/2023).”