Pogau is not only about the award: My reflection

Febriana Firdaus
Jan 31, 2017 · 6 min read
The picture was taken by me when i visited Lanny Jaya, Papua, in 2012.

I am writing this reflection in my uncle’s house after receiving the Oktovianus Pogau Award, far away from crowded Jakarta, in a border region with Depok.

He admires FPI hardliners that believe that the discourse of terrorism has been created by the west. He is also a big fan of Rizieq Shihab’s and passionately anti-Jokowi.

But we live in the same house and he is very kind to me. He respects the way I am, even though he knows about my problems with the hardliners when I spoke out about LGBT in early 2016. He debates with me sometimes but eventually, we will end up the conversation without any conclusion.

And yesterday I told him that I will receive the Pogou award. He’s the only one in our extended family who knows about this. I didn’t tell anyone. I don’t consider it necessary as nobody in my family is particularly interested in my job as a journalist.

His reaction to the news was as usual, flat and cold. I think this was because he doesn’t know who Oktovianus Pogau is. People like my uncle don’t trust journalists at all, particularly ones who have worked for mainstream media like me. I haven’t mentioned working with foreign media to him.

In fact, I see my uncle is a reflection of Indonesian majority. Mostly they are more familiar with populist demagogues like Donald Trump or Rizieq Shihab, rather than a figure like Pogau.

Not only majority of people, but I bet most journalists didn’t know who he was. Sadly, including me in the past. I was born and raised as part of the majority. I am part of the society who fail to recognize and understand minorities in remote areas like Papua.

But that was me before I changed my friends. Old people said that you can judge people from their best friend.

Since 2014, I have changed my friendships a lot. I no longer make friends with only local journalists but also activists, my sources, and some foreign journalists. No, I am not a social climber. I am a journalist who believes that I have to engage with the community and break out of that which I already know.

This phrase changed me a lot: “engage with your community and the subject of your writing.”

Amongst my new friends are Papuan activists. I have met a lot of Papuan activists, some of them from outside Papua, some originally from Papua. It doesn’t matter where are you come from as long as you support Papuans to get their freedom of expression. Then we can call you a Papuan supporter or activist.

The first Papuan that I interviewed was Filep Karma. Imagine: Filep Karma. I have to admit, I was a little bit nervous when I interviewed him. He’s like the godfather of Papua.

I put my interview with Filep Karma here. http://www.rappler.com/indonesia/114520-wawancara-filep-karma-papua-freeport

Even though we just spoke on the phone, I felt I could understand his suffering. As a Javanese-Maduranese from Java, who believes in freedom of speech. Because this is a luxury you can’t find in Papua.

Filep had been jailed for 11 years after waving the morning star flag of West Papua in public.

During the interview, he repeated the refrain that he’s not a criminal. He denied to sending a plea or clemency to Jakarta. “I am not a criminal, why do I have to?”

Copyright by Radio New Zealand .

Then I understood why Papuan people have always resisted Jakarta. Because Jakarta never treats them fairly. I dare you to admit it.

My second in-depth writing was profiling Nicko A Suhuniap, injured during a mass pro-Papua protest at Bundaran Hotel Indonesia in Jakarta. http://www.rappler.com/indonesia/114720-kesaksian-korban-tembak-demo-masyarakat-papua

When all mainstream media were busy covering our high-profile legislator Papa Minta Saham, I went to a hospital to visit Nicko. Not a single journalist there. None. So sad to realize that no mainstream media in Jakarta sent their reporter there to interview him. So I decided to do an interview via live Facebook stream.

This second article, again, reminds me about Filep. How consciously we discriminate against Papuans. Where’s the space for that story in Indonesia? We failed once again.

And the last, I wrote about Robert Jimau or Rojit, the ‘hero of the market mamas’, who died in suspicious circumstances. http://www.rappler.com/indonesia/134011-rojit-pejuang-pasar-mama-papua

There were rumors among Papuan activists that some people wanted Rojit dead. He had stood up against the local government for older women who sold their own produce in the traditional market.

The death of Rojit made young Papuans restless. One of them was Ligya Judith, a young, Leiden graduate with the potential to be a leader of Papua.

She made a very diplomatic comments about many the death of many Papuan activists in suspicious circumstances. After reading her comment here http://www.rappler.com/indonesia/134011-rojit-pejuang-pasar-mama-papua you will begin to question: what the hell is going on in Papua?

She mentioned about the mysterious death of other Papuan activists named Arnold Ap, Theys Hiyo Eluay, and Mako Tabuni.

After several times interviewing Papuans, I learnt a lot about their history. Papuans only want the freedom to speak. To speak on behalf of their people, to decide their own future.

How urgent is it? Very.

Oktovianus Pogau in Karubaga Airport, Tolikara, Papua. Copyright Okto Pogao’s facebook.

Papua never voluntarily joined Indonesia. According to Papuans, the Papuan Referendum in 1969 to decide their future was disavowed by the New York Agreement because the result being issued (allegedly) under the pressure of the Indonesian military.

Aside from the mysterious death of some Papuan activists, another issue that being a headline in Indonesia and international is about the Brisbane report on Papuan genocide since 1969. It shocked us. Here’s the complete information about the case. http://www.rappler.com/indonesia/131669-laporan-brisbane-genosida-di-papua-sejak-1969

Uh oh, I am talking too much now about Papua. Yes, because am worried that you don’t know anything. No, I am not underestimating you. I just think of the old me, when I didn’t know anything about Papua, and blamed Papuans for asking Jakarta for too much, and consider the free Papua movement as a disgrace. But everything has changed now after I read more, learnt more, and came to understand the situation.

I also understand why a figure like Oktovianus Pogau makes Papuans proud. Because as far as I know, not many Papuans have had the chance to be a journalist, at the same time giving a voice to voiceless Papuans. I can imagine how hard it is. Everything you need to know about him http://www.andreasharsono.net/2012/10/oktovianus-pogau.html and http://indoprogress.com/2016/02/bintang-kejora-yang-mati-muda/

After all, this award of course not about me or other winners in the future. This is a gentle reminder through a name “Okto Pogau”, but it’s more than about the name. His name represents the unsolved human rights abuses in Papua and at the same time questions, where is the media? Will other journalists be enough brave like Pogau?

And every year, this award will always remind us about the human rights abuses never addressed by the Indonesian government since the 1965 massacre.

This award serves as a reminder to Indonesian journalists the importance of reporting on human rights cases — and especially of giving more attention to Papua.

I personally think that am not qualified enough to receive this, because who am I compared to Pogau? But on the other hand, it instills more confidence in me to work on new projects, to keep reporting on human rights cases throughout Indonesia.

I hope to be more productive in the coming year.

Still in my uncle’s house,

Jan 31, 2017

Febriana Firdaus

Written by

Independent Investigative Journalist. Awardee, Indonesian Oktovianus Pogau Journalism Award in Courage 2017 & SOPA Awards 2019.