The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the decision on September 14 by a district court in Makassar in Indonesia to dismiss charges of criminal defamation laid against journalist Upi Asmaradhana (Upi).
According to the Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI), an IFJ affiliate, Upi was charged with criminal libel for organising public demonstrations protesting statements by General Sisno Adiwinoto, former commander of the South Sulawesi Regional Police Office. In June 2008, General Sisno had publicly advised people with complaints against the media to file police reports rather than use the complaint and resolution procedures available under Indonesia’s Press Laws.
General Sisno initiated the criminal defamation charge against Asmaradhana on November 11, 2008.
AJI President Nezar Patria said this decision should be used by the judiciary as a precedent when handling future defamation and libel cases brought against journalists.
“This court decision is a significant step forward in shifting media-related disputes in Indonesia entirely into its civil litigation framework,” said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.
“Journalists in Indonesia continue to risk criminal charges and convictions for their professional work, but we believe that their efforts will greatly hasten the country’s transition towards a democratic order in which freedom of expression is a guaranteed right in both word and deed.”
Under Indonesian law, defamation and libel charges against media workers can be filed under Articles 311 and 317 of the Criminal Code as well as the civil Press Law.
Criminal defamation and libel cases continue to be instituted against journalists despite a 2005 Supreme Court decision which held that complaints against the press and media should be dealt with under the Press Law and not the Criminal Code - which is an inheritance from Dutch colonialism.
Sydney Barrister Jim Nolan attended a session of Upi's trial in Makassar
last April as a legal observer representing the IFJ, and spoke at a seminar in
Makassar organised by AJI on Criminal Defamation to draw attention to Upi's
The IFJ stands in solidarity with AJI in its ongoing campaign for
complaints against the media to be dealt with under the Press Law, rather than
the Criminal Code.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide