Journalists working in Indonesia continue to live with the burden of violent reprisals in carrying out their duties to inform people of what’s happening in their communities, a new report has found.
The 2010 Enemy of Press Freedom report by the Alliance of Independent Journalist (AJI), an IFJ affiliate, documents 40 cases of violence, threats, intimidation and censorship against journalists and media workers from August 2009 to August 2010. In the previous year 38 cases were reported.
“Journalists in Indonesia have the right to exercise their duties free from the threat of violence and intimidation,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
“Indonesia’s authorities must ensure that all incidents of assault and other forms of intimidation are fully investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.”
AJI’s report concludes that the main enemies of press freedom in Indonesia in the past year are fundamentalist and militant groups which organise their members to mount mass intimidation of media personnel and outlets.
Ten such organisations were found to have used such tactics against journalists and media outlets in the past year, including the Islamic Defender Front (FPI), the Anti-Communist Front, Hisbullah Militia, Forum Betawi Rempug (Forum of Betawi Etnic), and Jawara (traditional warlord).
The number of people involved in the incidents perpetrated by mass organisations varied widely, from five to hundreds of individuals.
In one incident in August 2009, dozens of members of Islamic Laskar (Islamic Warrior) obstructed TV One journalists Air Setyawan and Eko Joko Sarjono from reporting a terrorist-related incident in Jatiasih Bekasi, West Java province.
In September, dozens of Hisbullah members intimidated and threatened a Solo Radio crew in Surakarta, Central Java after broadcasting a song of Genjer-Genjer. The popular folksong, which tells of the miserable life of poor peasants, has been banned since 1999 as it was associated with the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).
On September 2, 2009, 150 members of FPI and the Anti-Communist Front threatened and intimidated Jawa Pos, the biggest newspaper in East Java, after it published a series of articles profiling of Soemarsono, a former member of Indonesia’s Communist Party and a key figure in the 1945 Battle of Surabaya during the Indonesia National Revolution.
Of the 40 cases documented by AJI, ten involved mass organisations, seven were committed by bureaucrats, five by police, seven by members of the public, three by politicians and two by business men. Other incidents were perpetrated by a member of the military, a private security worker and a student.
The highest number of violent incidents (seven cases) occurred in Jakarta, followed by North Sumatra, East Java and Yogyakarta, with four cases each.
Papua and West Nusa Tenggara recorded three incidents each. However, AJI stresses the level of danger for media personnel working in these far-eastern provinces is high, with assaults and intimidation rampant but not regularly reported.
Mass intimidation organised by such groups commonly compelled media personnel and outlets to censor their reporting. In some instances, local politicians also forced media to censor. Six cases were recorded of local government officials, including personnel from local hospitals, demanding censorship or other reporting restrictions.
Aside from unofficial censorship, AJI reports six cases where the legal system was used to repress news reporting, through both criminal and civil defamation suits. Three of these cases were filed by police.
“The IFJ joins AJI in urging all groups in Indonesia – including authorities and members of the public - to use civil processes to deal with complaints about media content, rather than resort to violence, intimidation and criminal charges,” Park said.
Press Law no 40/1999 stipulates the right of reply as the proper legal channel for voicing concerns about media content. If the right of reply is not granted, a complaint can be directed to Indonesia’s Press Council.
Under the law, anyone obstructing the press in carrying out their professional duties to keep the public informed may be liable to a jail term.
The Enemy of Press Freedom Report was released in conjunction with AJI’s Annual Report, which forensically analyses the overall status of Indonesia’s media in 2009.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 125 countries
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