IFJ concerned about allegations of corruption in Acehkita Board

September 26, 2005

IFJ concerned about allegations of corruption in Acehkita Board

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation representing over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries, is deeply concerned that a battle between journalists and management of Acehkita has seen the internet news site suspended.

On September 12, the office of Acehkita.com, Indonesia’s most popular news website on Aceh, was closed by management after Acehkita chief editor, Dandhy Dwi Laksono, refused to accept a dismissal order.

According to IFJ sources the shutdown was the result of an ongoing conflict between the journalists and publishers of Acehkita over allegations of corruption in the Board of Founders of the Acehkita Foundation.

“Allegations of corruption in the media must be taken very seriously. Corruption at any level threatens the independence and reputation of the free media as a trust-worthy source of public information,” said IFJ President Christopher Warren.

Acehkita Employees Union (SEPAK) demanded the resignation of the Foundation Board’s chief executive, Smita Notosusan, amid allegations that the Foundation’s humanitarian funds had been misused.

Laksono believes he was targeted by Acehkita management for voicing his opposition to the Board’s alleged commercial use of humanitarian funds that were intended help the tsunami relief effort. Laksono opposed the Board’s decision to publish a daily newspaper in Aceh under the name of ‘Acehkita’. The deal was struck with a publishing company and allegedly breeches legal obligations that insist the Foundation does not hold commercial interests.

“Journalists should not be penalised by their employers if they raise concerns about the misuse of funds within their own organisation,” said IFJ President Christopher Warren.

“The journalists of Acehkita.com have been left out in the cold without any explanation or reassurance about their concerns in what is an extremely serious matter. I strongly urge the management of Acehkita to open negotiations with the union in good faith to resolve this issue as soon as possible,” said the IFJ President.

“Acehkita management must take action to allay fears of corruption rather than appearing to try to protect unscrupulous behaviour in the Board by waging war against its journalists and denying the community any access to daily news and information,” said Warren.

According to IFJ sources, security guards watched over journalists and employees as they collected their belonging and left the Acehkita office because of management concerns about theft.

“Indonesian authorities must investigate these allegations and reassure both Acehkita employees and the public that corruption will not be tolerated,” said Warren.

Acehkita was launched in July 2003 and publishes Bahasa and English news online, and a weekly magazine.

For further information contact Christopher Warren on +61 (0) 411 757 668.

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries