Indonesia has blocked internet access in protest-hit Papua over fears that a stream of offensive and racists posts online will spark more violent protests in the region, the government said on Thursday August 22nd.
"As of this morning, there is still a full block on internet access," communications ministry spokesperson Ferdinandus Setu told AFP.
Several Papuan cities saw riots and demonstrations this week, as buildings were burned and street battles broke out between police and protesters in Indonesia's easternmost territory.
A rebel insurgency against Jakarta's rule has simmered for decades in the island region, which shares a border with Papua New Guinea.
But it seemed that riots have been triggered by the arrest of dozens of Papuan students, who were also pelted with racist abuse, in Java at the weekend.
Recently, Indonesia slowed internet service to clamp down on hoaxes, provocative comments and racist abuse targeting Papua's ethnic Melanesian population. But it shut down service completely late on Wednesday.
"The amount of racist and provocative content online was very high... and it went viral," the government said. "The restrictions have not been that effective," Setu added. "We're still evaluating the situation... and will probably lift the block by this afternoon if possible."
Indonesia sent in 1,200 extra police and military to Papua, with some 45 protesters reportedly arrested.
Indonesia's chief security minister Wiranto, flew to the island late on Wednesday with the head of the military and Indonesia's national police chief. They are expected to hold a press briefing on Thursday in riot-hit Manokwari city.