5 May 2008


On World Press Freedom Day, AJI expresses deep concern over violence, legal actions against journalists

(AJI/IFEX) - The following is a 3 May 2008 AJI press release:

Indonesia: Don?t Let Press Freedom Get Robbed

When a journalist is imprisoned, when the right to public information is questioned in court, when religious believers are harassed, then the days of darkness will arrive . . .

Today, 3 May 2008, as the world's press community commemorates World Press Freedom Day, AJI warns that violence against the media and threats of prosecution threaten press freedom and the right to public information in Indoenesia.

From May 2007 to May 2008, AJI recorded 60 cases of violence against journalists in various forms throughout Indonesia. During this period, there were seven cases of threats, five cases of harassment, seven cases of eviction or expulsion, three cases of imprisonment, four cases of news censorship, 21 cases of physical assault and eight cases of lawsuits. By region, the greatest amount of violence occurred in Jakarta Special Region Province (13 cases), followed by East Java and Madura with 11 cases each, and West Java and Depok with eight cases each. In terms of perpetrators, violence against the media and journalists was committed mostly by mobs and thugs, followed by the government apparatus, military and police personnel as the most frequent perpetrators.

In recent examples of violations of press freedom, two television reporters and a radio journalist were attacked by a mob in the town square of Bojonegoro over press coverage on 30 April. On 2 April, two on-duty TV-One journalists were abused by Navy personnel in the Cikarang business area in Bekasi. In East Nusa Tenggara, on 16 February an Expo NTT journalist was abused by the Ende regional secretary and, on 17 Feburary, four thugs attacked a "Pos Kupang" reporter over press coverage.

Besides direct physical violence, press freedom in this country has been threatened by a number of people who abuse their power, money or position. In September 2007, "Tempo" journalist Metta Darmasaputra, who was investigating a case of alleged tax manipulation by PT Asian Agri, owned by tycoon Sukanto Tanoto, was wiretapped and threatened with prosecution by Jakarta Metropolitan Police personnel. This incident shows that journalists who carry out their social functions properly often face threats and dangers.

Law enforcers, ranging from the Attorney General's Office to the Supreme Court, also indirectly commit violence against media. A series of lawsuits, publication banning and prosecution of journalists occurred from May 2007 to May 2008. Risang Bima Wiyaja (of "Radar Yogya"), Dahri Uhum (of "Oposisi Tabloid" in Medan), "Time Magazine" (Asia), and Edy Sumarsono ("Investigasi Tabloid", in Jakarta) were among those forced to face lawsuits and prosecution because of their press coverage.

The state now also apparently wants to regain restrictive control over the press through potentially harmful legislation. Among the legislation in question is the Electronic Information and Transaction Law, the Law on the Transparency of Public Information, the Draft Bill on General Elections and the Draft Bill on Criminal Code, which contain threats of imprisonment and fines. Meanwhile, there have been many victims among the press who face prosecution under articles relating to insult (310, 311, and 207 of the Criminal Code). If this is allowed, Indonesia may return to an era in which the press could be dragged into court by the authorities in the name of secrecy or insult.

On World Press Freedom Day, AJI expresses its deep concerns over various violent acts against the press. The situation describes the decline in public respect for the press and the lack of understanding among government for the real role of the press. AJI reiterates that press freedom is guaranteed by the Constitution and Law Number 40 of 1999.

AJI therefore:
1. Urges law enforcers to not persecute journalists for doing their work, and to join efforts to prevent violent acts against journalists;
2. Invites all parties to use the mechanisms provided by the Law No. 40 when disputing a journalistic report, such as the right to response, the right to make corrections and the right to complain to the Press Council;
3. Calls on all journalists to improve their professionalism and their obedience to the journalistic code of ethics, avoiding improper practices that can ruin the general image of the press and journalists.

Let us unite our efforts to confront threats against press freedom, which are growing more obvious all the time.

For further information on the Darmasaputra case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/86458
For further information on the Electronic Information and Transaction Law, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/92513
For further information on the Law on the Transparency of Public Information, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/89170


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