Wensislaus (Wensi) Fatubun (37) is a West Papuan filmmaker and video activist, with an impressive human rights pedigree. He is also a human rights advisor of the Papuan People’s Assembly (Majelis Rakyat Papua – MRP) which represents the cultural interests of the indigenous Papuan people, protecting the rights of indigenous Papuans, with values consistent with respect for custom and culture, the empowerment of women, and the strengthening of harmonious religious life.
For over 12 years, he has worked different NGOs in West Papua, working towards peace and justice, including the Jakarta-based Catholic Church Group Justice Peace Integrity and Creation (JPIC MSC) and Papuan Legal Aid (Gabah Papua).
In 2012, along with some other activists, Wensi also started and became the founder of the Papuan Voices video movement in Papua and now sits as one of its board members.
In an email interview with EngageMedia, he tells the story of his recent initiative, The Papuan Archive, and why he created it. Below are excerpts from the interview.
1. What prompted you to archive content about human and environmental rights violations in Papua?
I saw that there are many videos of violence and other forms of human rights violations and environmental issues that are spreading on social media. Now, Papuans, especially the younger generation in West Papua, use videos to document violence and human rights violations and environmental issues in West Papua. But most of these video materials often lack the power to advocate for West Papuan issues or provide support for the West Papuan struggle. There are two things that I have seen happening here – first using a mediocre video for advocacy or other campaigns. Second, lack of context and a lack of discipline in fact verification. Therefore, we created the Papuan Archive.
2. Can you tell us about your website (Papuan Archive)? How can people contribute?
Papuan Archive is a space where Papuan people can archive their life stories. These life stories can be both the memory of their suffering and the story of how they are living with it. Papuan Archive began from a discussion between me and my colleague, Arul Prakkash. From that discussion, we both agreed that we need to support the Papuan filmmakers and activists in some kind of format and archiving methods that can help to end human rights and environmental violations.
We hope that many Papuans will contribute to this website. But how can we do it?
I will explain how we work in the Papuan Archive, and we hope that whoever wants to contribute will have this information. We are also open to people joining us in the Papuan Archive team. Papuan Archive is a collaborative work.
First, upload videos and photos to social media, such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and so on, or share videos and photos to the WhatsApp account of the Papuan Archive team.
- The Papuan Archive team will do the verification.
- The Papuan Archive team will be the content creator using a particular video or photo. We will collaborate to help get a letter of consent from the victim or family of the victim for the video or photo.
- The Papuan Archive team will input this information into the Data Directory.
- The Papuan Archive team will create a report.
- The Papuan Archive team will create an archive in two different forms: offline and online. Online, the team will publicize this at www.papuanarchive.org
- The Papuan Archive team will help with the outreach of this information to concerned parties.
3. Who are the users of this archive?
The primary audience/users of the Papuan Archive will be lawyers, human rights defenders, and human right workers. Why? One of our main aims is to help and strengthen human rights advocacy in West Papua.
Meanwhile, the secondary audience will be the Papuans who own that story. What we want is for the life stories of Papuans to become their collective memory, enriching the narratives of Papuan people. It’s important for Papuans to fight for their rights and to determine their future, taking lessons from that base of collective memories where all the sufferings they already experienced are recorded.
4. As a filmmaker from Papua, what security challenges do you face when you talk about these issues? Do you have tips for the contributors?
Security is an important aspect of our work, together with the verification of data and the recording of information. As a filmmaker and human rights advocate, I see security as a more tactical and technical procedure to protect ourselves and our sources from the authorities. This aspect is important for contributors to our site and the Papuan Archive team.
The one “law” that shouldn’t be broken is that all parties should follow a secure and manageable communication network. At the Papuan Archive, secure communication is part of our team behaviour.
5. What are the technical challenges of sending content to the archive and how can contributors overcome them?
We faced these difficulties when we were trying to document and verify data and information about the armed conflict between West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN-PB) and Indonesian Army (TNI), at Nduga district near the central mountain of West Papua. There’s no internet access, and phone networks are most of the time down. We got information that had already been circulated instead of from direct sources.
This slowed down verification of information about the conflict and the impact of this conflict. We experienced these technical difficulties (lack of good internet and phone connection). However, we had the utmost trust from the local people of Nduga, which helped us verify the data and information.
And there’s another difficulty: we tried to avoid our data and information falling into the hands of the party that would use it for propaganda and, in time, create a false narrative about what really happened in Nduga.
6. Is there a story/testimony that’s challenging to report? Can you explain what it’s about and what the challenge was?
Testimony and consent letters are two of the most important things in a report, especially the human rights violation report, apart from other evidence that had been gathered. The facts are the testimony from the victim or first-hand source, which we need to write a report. Most times, a testimony is not enough; we will still need a letter of consent from the victim or family of the victim to use the information or content.
7. How can online distribution help your work, and what are your thoughts on the online and offline distribution (online screenings)?
This online and offline way of distribution really helps in the Papuan Archive work to support our advocacy and the West Papuan struggle. The online distribution also helps us in our work to collect data or information and to distribute our advocacy reports. But in terms of verification, we’re not only depending on online; it’s important to make offline verification. For example, if we’re downloading video evidence from Facebook, we will bring this and show it in the village or location of the video; then, we will need to discuss this with the community to verify it and gather more information about its background and recent situations.
8. What kind of support do you need and what is your message to the audience?
We’re just getting started with this work. We’ll need more support and collaboration in this field. Papuan Archive is a collective work, so even though you don’t know other team members, we need you to trust us and the process so that you can contribute without worry. This is the burden of collective responsibility in our humanitarian work; this is the spirit of “we see, verify, and report it.”
About the Author
This October, journalists, filmmakers, human rights advocates, and technologists from across Asia will gather in the Philippines for Coconet II, a digital rights camp. Applications close August 11, 2019 – apply now!