The International Federation of Journalists has strengthened the safety of journalists and media workers operating in the dangerous region of Aceh in a historic meeting between IFJ General Secretary, Aidan White, and Tengku Hasan M. di Tiro, President of the Aceh/Sumatra National Liberation Front on 1 July 2001 in Geneva.
The meeting followed an urgent request for assistance from its Indonesian affiliate, The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI).
AJI contacted the IFJ after the Serambi Indonesia, Aceh's largest newspaper, suspended publication on 20 June 2001 following threats against it and its employees reportedly issued by the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). These threats were the most recent incident in a cycle of violence and intimidation against journalists in Aceh.
The violence against journalists in Aceh culminated with the torture and murder of Indonesian journalist Rusli Radja on 18 February 2001. Radja was a journalist with the weekly Aceh based magazine Pena Lestari.
IFJ General Secretary Aidan White presented Tengku Hasan M di Tiro with a letter from Christopher Warren, IFJ President, requesting that the Aceh National Liberation Front support the IFJ and journalists in the region who were vigorously campaigning for the safety of journalists.
During the meeting it was agreed by both parties that the Aceh National Liberation Front will do what it can to ensure the physical security of journalists and media staff and that local pressure on journalists and media will be lifted
It was also decided that the Aceh National Liberation Front and the IFJ will meet again to discuss ways for exchanging information and creating structures for dialogue to resolve difficulties that may arise for journalists working in the region.
In addition to this meeting, the IFJ has also written to the Government of the Republic of Indonesia and the Indonesian Police and Military seeking a similar guarantee for the safety of journalists working out of Aceh.