Indonesian filmmaker named suspect after sharing posts on Papua

JAKARTA (Reuters) - An Indonesian journalist and documentary filmmaker, Dandhy Laksono, was detained by police on Thursday night amid a crackdown on activists sympathetic to self-determination for the country’s easternmost provinces of Papua and West Papua.

Indonesian journalist and documentary filmmaker Dandhy Laksono is interviewed by reporters after he was named as a suspect and charged with violating the country's online hate speech laws in Bekasi, West Java province, Indonesia, September 27, 2019 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Risky Andrianto/ via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. INDONESIA OUT.

Laksono’s lawyer, Alghiffari Aqsa, said the filmmaker was held and questioned for four hours and then named a suspect after posting a tweet on Sept. 22 about violence in the Papuan cities of Jayapura and Wamena. He has been charged with violating the country’s online hate speech laws.

Argo Yuwono, Jakarta’s police spokesman, did not respond to requests for comment.

Indonesian security forces said that 35 civilians and a soldier were killed on Monday in Jayapura and Wamena, in an escalation of the violence that has convulsed the region for the past six weeks.

Triggered by perceived racial discrimination, the wave of protests is the most serious civil unrest for decades in an area that is home to a distinct ethnic Melanesian population.

The protests erupted after a group of Papuan students in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-biggest city located on the island of Java, were taunted and attacked by a mob chanting racial epithets over accusations the students had desecrated a national flag.

Laksono’s arrest came three weeks after the human rights lawyer and activist Veronica Koman was named a suspect by the Indonesian police after she posted on Twitter in support of the protesting Papuans, prompting rights groups to condemn the police action.

“Dandhy is just doing his reporting and commentary, challenging mainstream views in Indonesia on West Papua,” said Andreas Harsono, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, using an alternative name for the region. “He should not be charged at all. It is a press freedom matter,”

Some of Dandhy’s films have been regarded as critical of the Indonesian government. The most recent was “Sexy Killers”, a documentary released in April about the expansion of coal mines in East Kalimantan on the island of Borneo.

“He works with the principles of journalism,” said Harsono. “Charges against him - same with Veronica - are groundless because there’s no call for violence.”

Reporting by Stanley Widianto; editing by Tom Allard and Christian Schmollinger