From the ‘Act of Free Choice’ betrayal to a social media revolution

Tanah Papua, Asia-Pacific news blind spots and citizen media: From the ‘Act of Free Choice’ betrayal to a social media revolution

Abstract: For five decades Tanah Papua, or the West Papua half of the island of New Guinea on the intersection of Asia and the Pacific, has been a critical issue for the region with a majority of the Melanesian population supporting self-determination, and ultimately independence. While being prepared for eventual independence by the Dutch colonial authorities, Indonesian paratroopers and marines invaded the territory in 1962 in an ill-fated military expedition dubbed Operation Trikora. However, this eventually led to the so-called Act of Free Choice in 1969 under the auspices of the United Nations in a sham referendum redubbed by critics as an “Act of No Choice” which has been disputed ever since as a legal basis for Indonesian colonialism.

A low-level insurgency waged by the OPM (Free West Papua Movement) has also continued and Jakarta maintains its control through the politics of oppression and transmigration. For most of the five decades, the global MSM has largely ignored this issue, preferring to give attention to Fiji and the so-called “coup culture” instead. In the past five years, social media has contributed to a dramatic upsurge of global awareness about West Papua but still the global MSM, apart from Al Jazeera English, has failed to take heed. This presentation will also include other Asia-Pacific political issues ignored by a media that has no serious tradition of independent foreign correspondence – such as Bougainville, Kanaky, Timor-Leste and the militarisation of the Mariana Islands.

Room 418, at 12.00-13.00 on Department of Media and Communications



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