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The Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM) is the most important force uniting resistance in West Papua, formerly known as Irian Jaya, against Indonesian occupation. Rather than being a Weberian organization, the OPM can be conceived of as a cultural world view. A variety of distinct organizations are united by the principles of the OPM, but are autonomous in action. The media have depicted the OPM as dangerous insurgents who threaten the unitary state of Indonesia with violence. By employing acronyms such as GPL (Gerombolan Pengacau Liar or the "Wild Terrorist Gang") to refer to the OPM, the media has glossed over distinctions between different groups. Labelling the OPM as terrorists has serious political, economic and military implications. Media representations of the OPM are open to divergent readings by Papuans and their international network of supporters. Competing emic (local) accounts about the OPM are distributed on a global scale by new communications technologies.

Original publication




Journal article


Oxford Development Studies

Publication Date





189 - 203