Indonesia has blocked Internet access in eastern Papua to prevent provocative posts online from fueling violence, after a wave of protests against mistreatment of students and ethnic discrimination turned into riots.
The country’s Communications and Informatics Ministry has cut off access to telecommunication data and Internet to prevent people in Papua from accessing social media since August 21 night, though calls and text messages will still work, said ministry spokesman Ferdinandus Setu.
It was an effort to stop people from sharing offensive messages that can spark racial hatred, he noted, adding that the restriction may be removed if the situation is back to normal.
Indonesian security minister, police chief and military commander visited the port city of Sorong in Papua province to inspect where the protests erupted, but there was no report of fresh demonstrations there.
Demonstrations have spread across Papua after thousands of people, mostly university students, took to the street on August 19 to protest racism and discrimination. They blocked roads, damaged an airport and set fire to the headquarters of the Regional Legislative Council.
Authorities are hunting for more than 250 inmates who had escaped from a prison in Sorong that was torched during the riots.
Over 1,000 policemen have been deployed to Papua to maintain security there.
According to national police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo, anger boiled over at reports that authorities tear-gassed and detained some 43 Papuan university students in the country's second biggest city, Surabaya, on August 17 - Indonesia's Independence Day. The students were detained but released hours later after no evidence was found that they had damaged the flag.
Papua is a former Dutch colony in the western part of New Guinea that is ethnically and culturally distinct from much of Indonesia. It was incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 after a U.N.-sponsored ballot.
|Indonesia has blocked Internet access in eastern Papua to prevent provocative posts online from fueling violence, after a wave of protests against mistreatment of students and ethnic discrimination turned into riots. (Photo: VNA)