IFJ Concerned Over Disappearance of Journalists in Aceh

The International Federation of Journalists has sent a letter of protest to the President of Indonesia, Megawati Soekarnoputri voicing concern over the disappearance of to journalists in Aceh.

3 July 2003

Her Excellency Megawati Sukarnoputri
President, Republic of Indonesia
Office of the President
Bina Graha, Jalan Veteran No. 1
Jakarta Pusat, Indonesia

Via facsimile: +62-21-526-8726

Dear President,

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation of journalists representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide, is deeply concerned over the disappearance of a reporter and cameraman from RCTI television station.

According to our information, reporter, Ersa Siregar, and cameraman Very Santoro, and their driver Rahmatsyah reportedly went missing at about 4 p.m on Sunday 29 June while on assignment in Langsa, Aceh. The two journalists had been covering the military operation in Aceh since May 19.

Col. Ditya Soedarsono, spokesman on martial law administration for the Indonesian Military (TNI) has said "Their last communication was made while they were traveling from Langsa to Lhokseumawe," as quoted in the Jakarta Post.

According to our information, prior to being reported missing the journalists had been allegedly stopped by the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) in a forest in Bireun, and were released again shortly after.

This latest attack comes after a the a journalist from the state television TVRI was found dead after being kidnapped by unidentified people and held hostage for almost a month.

The IFJ calls upon the Government of Indonesia to launch a full investigation into the disappearance of Very Santoro and Ersa Siregar and ensure that the people responsible are brought to justice.

In addition to the IFJ is calling on the Government of Indonesia to repeal the restrictions placed on foreign and Indonesian journalists working in Aceh province.

It is of vital importance for citizens to have full access to correct, up to date and non-biased information, particularly in times of conflict. It is crucial that these restrictions are repealed to ensure press freedom in Indonesia.

Yours sincerely

Christopher Warren
President, IFJ

Recommended action:

Send appeals:

* Condemning the disappearance of Very Santoro and Ersa Siregar and their driver Rahmatsyah
* Urging the Government of Indonesia to launch a full investigation
* Condemning the recent restrictions on foreign journalists covering the conflict in Aceh
* Urging the Government to repeal the restrictions allowing foreign and local journalists to cover the conflict free from reprisal and constriction.