Indonesia has blocked internet access in West Papua, a move that followed the government deployment of additional military and police personnel to the region to help to quell ongoing protests and secure vital public facilities.
News of the internet shutdown comes as angry demonstrations continue to break out on Thursday in West Papua province’s city of Sorong and the Fakfak regency, according to Al Jazeera sources.
A number of protesters have also started to gather in the capital, Jakarta.
Indonesia’s security minister, Wiranto, and the country’s police chief, General Tito Karnavian are heading to the West Papua region – which comprises West Papua and Papua provinces – on Thursday to oversee the government’s security operation, according to reports.
Indonesia’s information ministry said the decision to “temporarily block” internet communication starting on Wednesday is meant “to accelerate the process of restoring the security and order situation in Papua and the surrounding areas”.
The order will stand “until the situation in Papua returned to being conducive and normal,” according to the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology’s official website.
Information Minister Rudiantara confirmed the shutdown in a message to Al Jazeera on Thursday.
“It is only data,” he said, adding that people “can still make and receive calls, and send and receive text messages”.
Earlier, Rudiantara told Al Jazeera that authorities had “throttled” the internet in West Papua “to filter information and prevent the spread of rumours during the protests”.
State-owned Antara news agency reported late on Wednesday that police officers have arrested at least 34 people in Timika, a regency in Papua province.