Indonesia: Police officer sentenced leniently for journalist assault

The disciplinary and ethical tribunal of East Java’s regional police has sentenced a police officer who assaulted Tempo journalist Nurhadi to just 14 days in prison, lower than the sentence given by the East Java High Court. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Indonesia, condemn the lenient sentence which will not deter further violence against journalists in Indonesia.

Indonesian police officer, Brigadier Firman Subkhi, faces the disciplinary and ethical tribunal of East Java's regional police for assaulting Tempo journalist, Nurhadi. Credit: AJI

Brigadier Firman Subkhi was handed a 14-day sentence at an internal police trial in May, which did not consider the previous verdicts of the Surabaya District Court and the East Java High Court.

On January 12, both Subkhi and Chief Brigadier Purwanto were sentenced to 10 months in prison at Surabaya District Court for their assault of Nurhadi. Under Article 18(1) of Indonesia’s Press Law, the two police officers were found guilty of committing a criminal act of obstruction of journalist activity. The court also ordered the police officers to pay restitution of Rp 13,813,000 (approx. USD 937) to Nurhadi.

The sentences were lower than the prosecutor’s request for 18 months in prison and were yet further reduced to eight months while on trial at the high court of East Java. The prosecutor of Nurhadi's case has appealed the verdict, with the convicted officers also appealing.

The case marks the first time police officers have been sentenced for attacking a journalist in Indonesia, however, press freedom groups have said that the verdict should have gone beyond violations of the press law to include charges of assault and intimidation.

On March 29, 2021, Nurhadi was assaulted and threatened for investigating a case of alleged bribery involving the former director of investigations and tax collections at Indonesia’s Finance Ministry. He was also held captive for two hours in a hotel room in Surabaya, with officers smashing his mobile phone and wiping his computer memory.

The AJI Surabaya Chairperson, Eben Haezer, said: “The sentence was an anticlimax. We expected the disciplinary tribunal would be more severe since what the officer did to journalists has damaged the image of the police institution. Police are supposed to protect and serve the people. We expect the sentence will be higher on the supreme appeal.”

The IFJ said: “The IFJ condemns the lenient sentencing of the two police officers for the assault of Indonesian journalist Nurhadi. The sentence does not adequately reflect the duty of the authorities to guarantee the safety of journalists and protect press freedom, and these charges should be reviewed.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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