Indonesia: Six media companies sued over articles published five years ago

Six local media companies in Makassar, South Sulawesi, are facing civil lawsuits following articles that questioned M. Akbar Amir’s claims of descendance from the historical Kingdom of Tallo. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Indonesia, in calling for the plaintiff to withdraw the civil lawsuit and the court to reject the request.

Civil lawsuits have been filed against six media companies in Makassar District Court, South Sulawesi. Credit: Kabar Makassar.

M. Akbar Amir, who claims to be a descendant of the Tallo King, sued five online media outlets including Antara News, Terkini News, Celebes News, Makassar Today, and Kabar Makassar, as well as a public radio station, Radio Republik Indonesia. The plaintiff is seeking damages for 100 trillion rupiahs (approx. USD 67.92 million).

Journalists from the six media organisations covered a press conference held by the United Defenders of Indonesian Homeland Unity (Pekat) on March 18, 2016. The media organisations published statements from two sources that rejected M. Akbar Amir’s claim of being a descendant of the Tallo King. At that time, the journalists also attempted to gain confirmation from M. Akbar Amir but did not receive a response.

On December 31, 2021, M. Akbar Amir, head of the Indonesian Archipelago Tradition Group, filed civil suits against the six media companies. The trial is still ongoing in the Makassar District Court.

Before the civil lawsuit, Akbar Amir never used the right to reply, correct, or send a legal notice. He claimed that their news coverage had made him lose investments amounting to 100 trillion rupiahs and accused the media of committing an unlawful act and defamation. 

AJI Indonesia and several institutions, including the Committee of Journalist Safety and the Legal Aid Institute for the Press (LBH Pers), are advocating against the civil lawsuit. The meeting with the Indonesian Press Council to discuss this legal case was held on June 13.

According to the Press Law Number 40/1999 and the Press Council Regulation Number 1/2017, the dispute regarding press coverage should be solved through Press Council and not in court. The six media outlets published information using proper journalism practices that are protected by the Press Law.

AJI said: “The civil lawsuit is a form to silence the media and a significant threat against the press freedom in the country if the court grants the request of the plaintiff. Furthermore, parties who are not pleased with the media coverage can use civil suits besides criminal suits with huge amounts of damages that can cause the bankruptcy of the media.”

The IFJ said:“Disputes over media coverage must be resolved through the press council. We urge the court to immediately reject the civil lawsuits against the six media organisations and respect press freedom.”

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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