Indonesian Editor’s Criminal Defamation Trial an “Affront to Free Speech”

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has called for the dismissal of all charges against online editor Teguh Santosa who is being tried under the Criminal Code (KUHP) for defamation against a religion today in the South Jakarta District Court, Indonesia.

Teguh, editor-in-chief of the Rakyat Merdeka Online, faces up to five years in jail for republishing the now-famous “Danish Cartoons” which depicted the Islamic prophet Mohammod.

Despite reports the Rakyat Merdeka Online removed the cartoons from its site after receiving complaints, and published an open apology to those people it had offended, Teguh was detained on July 19.

“This trial against Teguh is an affront to free speech. To face five years imprisonment, is not only excessive, it is also an attack on the very foundations of freedom of expression,” IFJ President Christopher Warren said.

“This is another terrible violation of press freedom, which in a long line of defamation lawsuits against journalists and media organisations, including Tempo, Kompas, and Trust, seems to highlight a troublesome pattern in Indonesia,” Warren said.

“It is time for the Indonesian Government to recognise that jailing journalists for defamation is an ineffective and inappropriate penalty. The IFJ again calls for the government to remove defamation from its criminal code,” the IFJ President said.

“Defamation should be dealt with through the civil Law of the Press 40/1999 in Indonesia,” Warren said.

The IFJ, the organisation representing more than 500,000 journalists in over 115 countries, is campaigning for the complete decriminalisation of defamation, and promotes the use of reasonable civil remedies to simultaneously protect reputations and press freedom.

According to IFJ affiliate the Alliansi Jurnalis Indepen (AJI), the arrest and detention of Teguh violated the spirit of Indonesian law and its constitution, which guarantees the protection of freedom of expression.

The IFJ urges the South Jakarta District Court to honour the principles of the Indonesian constitution, and find Teguh not guilty of all charges and to send a clear statement about the inappropriate use of the criminal code in defamation cases.

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

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