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Murder or Suicide? Merauke Journalists Terror Continues

Photo: VHRMedia/FileMerauke Regency, Papua province, Indonesia: The Merauke Police, journalists and NGOs are all busy with the recent suspicious death of a journalist. Police deny it was a murder, and have also denied it had something to do with the current provincial election, but others are not so sure.

July and August 2010 have been challenging for the Merauke Police, activists and especially journalists. After journalists began to receive death threats over text messages, many thought it was a time-bomb. The journalist Ardiansyah Qomar Wibisono Matrais was found dead suspiciously. Journalists started to feel more threatened and NGOs (Papuan and even international), started to react.

However, instead of murder, the Merauke police claimed the journalist committed suicide at a river a the Maro, Jembatan Tujuh Wali-Wali, Merauke. The Voice of Human Rights reported that during the two-day search and rescue operation people the motorbike and sandals belonging to the journalist were found in the Jembatan Maro area.

“The media reports weren’t true about him being murdered,” Iptu Mochamad Rifai of Merauke Police told VHR. “We suspect he committed suicide from all the evidence gathered at the crime scene, so don’t play the guessing game like that.”

The police denied earlier media reports that the journalist was tied to a block of wood and his ribs were broken due to physical assaults. According to the authority, Matrais was experiencing severe depression while working for Tabloid JUBI in Jayapura. The police investigation revealed that the journalist was once being cared for in a mental institute.

Various sources reported that while working for JUBI, Matrais wrote about the illegal logging activities in the Sarmi District. He received various life-threats after that. Police though admitted that the journalist’s forensic report has yet to be finalized and that the police was still waiting for it.

Ardiansyah Qomar Wibisono Matrais was born on April 20, 1981. He was a familiar figure among journalists in Merauke dan Jayapura. Ardi, as he was called, moved around schools in his lifetime. He went to the state’s Elementary School and Junior High School in Merauke. He graduated from High School in Jombang, East Java in 1999, and went to Merdeka University in Malang, majoring on electrical engineering.

While the police insisted that additional deployment of officers would ensure the safety of journalists around the Merauke election, many press workers just are not that convinced.

“At least now we have more eyes looking at Merauke, so whatever happens, we won’t be so lonely down here,” said an EM source.