The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has expressed its indignation at the Indonesian Supreme Court’s ruling for Time Magazine to pay former President Soeharto one trillion rupiah in damages.
The Supreme Court overruled previous District and High Court decisions to quash Soeharto’s lawsuits, which has sparked outrage in a country still enduring the legacy of the former dictator’s reign.
Time Magazine has been forced to issue an apology and pay the massive sum for publishing an article in 1999 amidst public demands to trace the assets of Soeharto's family.
The May 24, 1999 edition of Time Magazine published a report on the fortune of former President Soeharto titled "Soeharto Inc.: How Indonesia's Longtime Boss Built a Family Fortune".
The article alleged Soeharto had accumulated an enormous amount of wealth under dubious circumstances while in power, and attempted to trace the origin of many of the family’s assets.
IFJ Asia Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said it was disgraceful that Soeharto was still able to exert so much power on the governing bodies of Indonesia, and called on Time Magazine to go to any lengths possible to have the decision overruled.
‘‘This decision by the Supreme Court undermines the work of all journalists in Indonesia, and is yet another nail in the coffin of press freedom,’’ Park said.
Time Magazine’s lawyer, Todung Mulya Lubis, said that unless overturned, the court’s decision, "means they [the courts] have taken a step backward."
"What Time published was based on journalistic ethics. It was fair and covered both sides. It would be a step backward for the Indonesian press."
The Supreme Court decision is expected to generate widespread condemnation from Indonesia, with many citizens still bitter about the former president never being brought to trial over persistent allegations of massive corruption during his time in power.
The IFJ supports its affiliate, Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), in their condemnation of the ruling, stating that the decision was inconsistent and posed a threat to journalists’ freedom of speech.
Furthermore, the ruling has made a mockery of the democratic image which Indonesia has prided itself on since becoming a republic.
The AJI has invited all citizens and press to unite and fight against these political manipulations, which place both press freedom and the rights of journalists at risk.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries