Media release from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

3 June 2001

BIAK Suppression Claim is Baseless

A claim in today's Sun-Herald newspaper that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade sought to suppress a report on an incident at Biak in Irian Jaya on 6 July 1998 is completely without foundation.

Even the most cursory examination of the facts would show the allegation to be completely spurious.

The Biak incident occurred on 6 July 1998.  The Minister for Foreign Affairs raised it with both Mr Alatas (then Indonesian Minister for Foreign Affairs) and General Wiranto (then Commander of ABRI) during his visit to Jakarta from 8-10 July 1998.  In his meeting with Mr Alatas, Mr Downer raised the reports of protesters being killed the previous week in Irian Jaya and urged ABRI to exercise restraint.

On 10 July 1998, Mr Downer gave a briefing on his visit to Australian media representatives in Jakarta.  He told them he had raised the reports of violence taking place in Irian Jaya with General Wiranto and expressed his concern. 

The report on the Biak incident was given the appropriate security classification which ensured it went to senior officers in all relevant Departments and agencies.

All these facts were made clear to the Sun Herald reporter before his story was published.  Yet he chose to act on misinformation from a source which has already proven neither credible nor reliable.

Inquiries:  Julie McDonald (Departmental) 02 6261 2534/0417 219 785

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