IFJ Protests Over Excessive Legal Measures Taken Against Daily Newspaper in Indonesia

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide, is deeply concerned over the verdict issued by a South Jakarta District Court, ordering the Koran Tempo to pay US$1 million in damages to businessman Tomy Winata in addition to publishing a public apology in both national and international press for three consecutive days.


The IFJ has protested to the President of Indonesia, Spokesman/ Chairman of the People's Consultative Assembly of Indonesia and State Minister for Justice and Human Rights of Indonesia in the following letter:


29 January 2004


President Megawati Soekarnoputri

President of the Republic of Indonesia

Istana Merdeka

Jakarta 10110

Indonesia

Fax: + 62 21 345 2685 (via State Secretariat) / 62 21 526 8726 / 62 21 380 5511 / 62 21 345 7782


Prof. Dr. HM Amien Rais

Spokesman/Chairman of the People's Consultative Assembly of Indonesia

Fax 62-21-5734874


Yusril Ihza Mahendra

State Minister of Justice and Human Rights

Jl Kuningan Timur M 2/5

Jakarta 12950 Indonesia

Fax: + 62 21 5256855


Dear President and Sirs


The International Federation of Journalists, the global organisation representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide, is deeply concerned over the ruling of the South Jakarta District Court finding the Koran Tempo daily newspaper guilty of defamation against businessman Tomy Winata.


According to our information, on 20 January the South Jakarta District Court ordered the Koran Tempo to pay USD 1 million in damages to Mr. Winata and to publish or broadcast a public apology in both foreign and national press for three consecutive days. If the Koran Tempo does not comply with the court’s order it will be fined USD 1,190 per day.


The judges found that the Koran Tempo had violated the Press Law and the press code of ethics.


Koran Tempo has appealed the decision and the judges have stayed the application of the order until the appellate court had handed down their ruling.


The IFJ believes the fine issued is excessive, and highlights the need for a review of defamation laws in Indonesia to ensure an appropriate and rational relationship between the relevant harm and the amount of damages that can be awarded.

The subject of the action against Koran Tempo was an article titled “Governor Ali Mazi denies Tomy Winata is to open casino,” which ran in its 6 February, 2003 edition.


This decision is the first in five cases facing the courts involving Winata and Tempo, with several journalists facing civil and criminal charges arising from a story published in Tempo on 3 March 2003 which aired allegations that Winata was set to profit from a blaze at a textile market. The story also carried a denial of these allegations from Winata. If found guilty, the journalists could face up to ten years in prison.


These actions by the courts seem to be part of a disturbing trend of using defamation cases to restrict press freedom and legitimate comment. The IFJ argues that the use of the Press Law in its narrowest terms without taking into consideration the public benefit of a free and press is having a chilling effect on press freedom in Indonesia. The cases are sending a clear – and highly inappropriate - message to the Indonesian media that those with deep pockets should not be the subject of journalistic inquiry or legitimate comment.


The IFJ calls on the Government of Indonesia to do all that is necessary to ensure that the media in Indonesia operates in a climate of healthy and robust press freedom.


Yours sincerely



Christopher Warren

President, IFJ


Recommended action:


Send appeals:


  • Condemning the Court’s decision to award against the Koran Tempo

  • Condemning the narrow use of the Press Law

  • Calling on the Government of Indonesia to do all that is necessary to ensure that the media in Indonesia operates in a climate of healthy and robust press freedom.


    Appeals:


    President Megawati Soekarnoputri

    President of the Republic of Indonesia

    Istana Merdeka

    Jakarta 10110

    Indonesia

    Fax: + 62 21 345 2685 (via State Secretariat) / 62 21 526 8726 / 62 21 380 5511 / 62 21 345 7782


    Prof. Dr. HM Amien Rais

    Spokesman/Chairman of the People's Consultative Assembly of Indonesia

    Fax 62-21-5734874


    Yusril Ihza Mahendra

    State Minister of Justice and Human Rights

    Jl Kuningan Timur M 2/5

    Jakarta 12950 Indonesia

    Fax: + 62 21 5256855


    Please copy appeals to the IFJ Asia Office at ifj-asia@alliance.org.au


    For further information please contact IFJ Asia at ifj-asia@alliance.org.au