Report Highlights Organised Mass Intimidation of Journalists in Indonesia

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

 

Find the

IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific