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Joint Press Statement on the Murders of Two Indonesian Journalists

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FORUM-ASIA, Imparsial, and AJI Condemn the Murders of Two Journalists in Indonesia

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and its members in Indonesia, the Indonesian Human Rights Monitor (Imparsial) and the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), condemn the killings of Mr. Ardiansyah Matra’is and Mr. Ridwan Salamun, two journalists in Indonesia. These killings clearly illustrate the great challenge of journalists in Indonesia who are also human rights defenders in their work of covering and investigating human rights abuses in the country.

Mr. Ardiansyah Matra’is was a journalist who regularly reported on corruption and illegal logging practices in Papua. His articles were published in Jubi magazine and also his videos were published in until early this year. On 30 July 2010, Mr. Ardiansyah Matra’is’ body was found naked and handcuffed floating in the Maro River of Merauke in Papua, Indonesia. He had been reported missing since 28 July 2010 when his motorbike and helmet were found at the Wali-Wali bridge of Merauke in Papua. After a post-mortem examination of the body, Indonesian police revealed on 20 August 2010 that Mr. Ardiansyah Matra’is was murdered and drowned in the river. Signs of torture were also found on Mr. Ardiansyah Matra’is’ body. It is believed that his murder may be linked to his work covering controversial issues such as corruption and illegal logging in Papua. It may also be linked to his coverage of the regional election that took place on 2 August 2010.

The other journalist, Mr. Ridwan Salamun, was killed on 21 August 2010 while covering news on a communal clash between villagers from Banda Ely and Fiditan in Tual, Maluku. Mr. Ridwan Salamun suffered fatal injuries from a spear wound and a gash on his head. The communal clash was triggered by a minor disagreement that quickly escalated into violence between the villagers. Residents of Banda Ely reportedly told a motorcyclist from Mangun hamlet, Fiditan, Tual to slow down while driving through their neighborhood. The motorcyclist then went back to his own neighborhood and gathered together some friends to attack those who allegedly rebuked him. Relations between these two communities have been fragile since the conflict in Tual in 1999. Clashes between Muslim and Christian groups figured prominently during this conflict which lasted for several years, from 1999 to 2002. Banda Ely is a community of Muslim settlers who originally came from Key Besar, while Fiditan is a predominantly Christian community. Villagers from Banda Ely are people who were internally displaced due to the conflict in the place where they originally came from.

FORUM-ASIA, Imparsial and AJI believe that Mr. Ardiansyah Matra’is and Mr. Ridwan Salamun are human rights defenders since they report on human rights abuses and bear witness to violations that they have seen in the course of their work. Journalists play an important role in promoting and protecting human rights. They report on human rights abuses and contribute towards the awareness of civil society regarding human rights. Often, they have to stand at the frontlines in the field and are vulnerable to attacks both from state and non-state actors. For this reason, it is crucial for the state to take particular steps to ensure the safety of journalists.

FORUM-ASIA, Imparsial, and AJI call on the government of Indonesia to take serious heed of the rights of these human rights defenders under the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. Article 6, par. b provides that everyone has the right, individually and in association with others “freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Furthermore, Article 12, par. 2 of the Declaration outlines the obligation of the State that it must “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”

FORUM-ASIA, Imparsial and AJI Indonesia strongly urge the Government of Indonesia

  1. Conduct an independent investigation into the killings of Mr. Ardiansyah Matra’is and Mr. Ridwan Salamun;
  2. Show strong political will in protecting journalists who also act as human rights defenders, so that they may freely and safely continue to report on human rights violations; and
  3. Address the issue of impunity against journalists who act as human rights defenders in Indonesia by investigating all cases of threats and violence against these journalists and bringing perpetrators to justice.


For inquiries, please contact:

  • Ms. Emerlynne Gil of the Human Rights Defenders Department of FORUM-ASIA through [email protected] or tel. no. +66 8 40923575.
  • Ms. Poengky Indarti, Executive Director of Imparsial, through [email protected]
  • Mr. Victor Mambor, Coordinator, AJI-Papua Chapter, through [email protected]