Defamation Charges in Indonesia Threaten Press Freedom

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has expressed concern over an investigation into allegations of defamation against Indonesian newspaper Harian Kursor.

According to IFJ affiliate, Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI), the newspaper is alleged to have breached the Criminal Code in its report on the arrest of broadcast correspondent Harry Harzufri for suspected drug use.

AJI reports that if found guilty of the breaches, the editor of Harian Kursor could potentially face 4 years in jail, for committing defamation and “premeditated maltreatment” of the Harzufri, the Kupang-based correspondent of private broadcaster Radio Citra Televisi Indonesia (RCTI), who later had all charges dropped because of contradictory evidence.

“The IFJ maintains that jailing journalists for defamation is a widely inappropriate – not to mention, ineffective – penalty,” IFJ President Christopher Warren said.

“We have long campaigned for the removal of defamation from the criminal code, and in light of this latest case, call again for the Indonesian government to decriminalise defamation once and for all,” Warren said.

AJI wrote to the Kupang municipal police on February 19 letter to call attention to the abuse of criminal laws, and to demand the use of the press law, Law No 40 (1999), which was established with the main objective of decriminalising press offences, namely defamation.

AJI emphasised that the police should encourage those who feel they have been injured by the press to activate their right of reply via the Press Council and to avoid careless implementation of the Criminal Code.

“The Indonesian legislature’s apparent reluctance to acknowledge the press’s legally enshrined independence is frustrating; the 1999 laws were an enormous step towards a free media, yet continuing criminal charges only force these advances backwards,” Warren said.

“The IFJ supports the AJI in its efforts to abolish criminal defamation in Indonesia, and asks the government to implement the ‘right of reply’ for those who disagree with publications, rather than resorting to disproportionate prison sentences.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific +61 2 9333 0919

 The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries