Papua Now Posted on 

Papua has always been a fascinating subject for both Indonesian and foreign media. The recent corruption case of Papua Governor Lukas Enembe became major news both in Indonesia and other countries with both mainstream and online media providing coverage of the case freely. Journalists, both national and international were able to report directly from Papua unhindered. Netizens were also able to give their perspectives without restrictions.

Among the foreign media reporting on the Governor’s scandal included British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) News Indonesia and Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) News. Through Anne Baker, an ABC correspondent who has been stationed in Jakarta since September 2018, the Australian and international public were able to receive in-depth reports on the case. ABC’s attention on the case appears to be unrelated to any sympathies for the Papuan people but rather due to its connection to Australia. According to Anne Baker’s report on 28 September 2022, Indonesian investigators are currently looking into possible transactions by the Governor at the Crown Casino in Perth and suspicious bank deposits in Perth and Melbourne.

In a different case, the Washington Post published several reports on the attack by Free Papua Movement members near the Freeport McMoran Copper and Gold Inc. mine. The incident received wide coverage due to most of the casualties being American.

The two examples illustrate that Papua generally receives international media coverage if a negative incident connected to their public’s interests and attention occurs. The pattern of coverage is still in line with Western ideological biases and the notion that “bad news is good news”. Naturally, much like Indonesian journalists do, the reports from foreign media are coloured by their own viewpoints.

Freedom for western journalists to report on news in Papua was granted by President Joko Widodo on May 10 2015, announced by the President while attending the “Panen Raya” event in Merauke.

“From this day onward, we have given allowance to foreign journalists. We give them freedom to enter Papua like the other provinces,” said the President.

Media Diplomacy

Seeing the challenges in maintaining Indonesian sovereignty in Papua, what strategies and tactics can be used? Diplomacy conducted aggressively through the media is one of the best choices in countering the dominance of opinions formed by supporters of Papuan independence.

This form of diplomacy through the media will hopefully provide a different perspective on the achievements related to development as well as the challenges which go together with Papuan development. This will be part of the efforts in winning over the hearts and minds of both the domestic and foreign publics.

Public perception on a particular issue is built on received information. Research by Gaye Tuchman (1978) has shown that “news is the window to the world” and through media framing, people may learn about themselves, their countries, neighbouring countries, and many other subjects beyond what they have personally experienced.

A study by Eamonn McCann (1973) revealed just how influential media framing is on the formation of public opinion. His writing “The British Press and Northern Ireland”, revealed that the majority of the British believe what they read.

Considering the strategic role of the media in shaping public opinion, is the Indonesian Government policy announced on 10 May 2015 providing foreign journalists freedom in reporting from within Papua and West Papua Province enough to support this aggressive diplomacy? Arguably it is currently insufficient.

Regardless of how the related parties have implemented the President’s policy on the ground, the government’s hope that the foreign media’s coverage stops portraying Indonesia in a negative light appears difficult to achieve. Given the principle that bad news is good news prevalent in Western media, conflict, social and economic disparity, economy, and other negative issues in Papua, both current and past will always be considered more interesting to report to their readers and viewers.

Sensationalism and bias in selecting and sorting of facts or sources to support the showing of realities on the ground adjusted through agenda setting and media framing add to the difficulties faced by Indonesia in getting balanced reporting. Understanding that the granting of freedom to cover the news directly from Papua and West Papua is not guaranteed to produce news that is in line with Indonesian interests, a more assertive strategy with agenda setting through foreign media needs to be formulated.

Simply, the strategy can take the form of “supplemental newspapers” with content created by professional Indonesian journalists which will be distributed directly to foreign publics through media printed in that particular country.

In addition, as part of the communications strategy, Indonesia needs news portals in the languages of the targeted countries with content oriented on development journalism framed in 3E+1N format (Educating, Empowering, Enlightening, and Nationalism). These instruments aim to open the eyes of the public in targeted countries such as in the South Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, South America, and the Netherlands. This will allow them to receive balanced and proportional information on Papua and West Papua, as well as Indonesia as a whole.

A good example of this communications strategy has long been implemented by Russia through Russia Beyond the Headlines (RBTH). Supported by government funding, RBTH’s print edition takes the form of a newspaper and tabloid, reaching the public in 24 countries and having a circulation of 9 million. It provides a variety of balanced information by Russian journalists in various topics including politics, economy, science and technology, sports, and multimedia. RBTH is published in many languages in target countries as supplements in 30 influential media in countries such as USA, UK, France, Italy, Japan, and Australia.

RBTH also has online media in various languages including Indonesian at http:/ Other languages include English, Mandarin, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, French, German, Japanese, and many others. It is possible for Indonesia to emulate this media diplomacy strategy employed by Russia through RBTH to provide a counterbalance to world public opinion on the country. Through the publication, the world can discover the truth behind various news from Papua through an Indonesian perspective, differentiating it from foreign media.