Journalists from Melanesian countries are urging the Indonesian government to put a stop to criminalizing journalism, following concerns about growing threats to media freedom in the country.
During the Melanesian Media Freedom Forum at Griffin University in Brisbane, Australia, several journalists who represent media from Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and West Papua called on Indonesia, as well as the governments of their own countries, to take action to secure the future of journalism.
“We call on the Indonesian government to stop killing and prosecuting journalists,” the forum members’ said in a written statement received by The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
The journalists also demanded the Indonesian government investigate and bring to justice those who are responsible for attacks on journalists, end state-sponsored misinformation about West Papua, stop racist stigmatization of indigenous West Papuan journalists and allow access by foreign journalists, parliamentarians and independent observers to West Papua.
The forum members also demanded the government obtain a better understanding of the role of journalism in Melanesian democracies.
"Awareness of the accountability role played by journalists and the need for them to be able to exercise their professional skills without fear is critical to the functioning of our democracies," they said.
The Melanesian Media Freedom members stated that they are ready to collaborate with all parties that wish to improve the social media landscape.
"There is an urgent need for the media to assert its role as a source of accurate and impartial information and to play a role in building social media literacy and public understanding of how to identify credible sources of information," they said.