IFJ Supports Calls for Reform After Defamation Decision in Indonesia

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) supports moves by its Indonesian affiliate, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), to review media laws in Indonesia after another guilty verdict in a media defamation case last week.

The Central Jakarta District Court found Tempo magazine guilty of defaming Asian Agri and ordered the magazine’s publisher to pay 50 million rupiah (about US$5,400) in damages and publish apologies in several publications. The verdict followed legal action by Asian Agri over a series of investigative reports in Tempo in 2007 which alleged it had engaged in massive tax evasion.

"The lawsuit was Asian Agri's way of silencing the media," AJI said after the verdict was announced.

AJI has announced plans to appeal the decision as well as new Freedom of Information and Electronic Information and Transaction laws, which contain heavy restrictions on freedoms to communicate, including an extension of Indonesia’s law of criminal defamation to the online world.

The decision follows a July verdict in which Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper, part of the Asian Agri group, won damages of more than 200 million rupiah (about US$22,000) against Koran Tempo newspaper over reports alleging illegal logging practices.

On January 19, 2008, journalist Risang Bima Wijaya was sentenced to six months’ jail for criminal defamation over articles published in Radar Jogja in 2005 regarding allegations of sexual harassment by newspaper publisher Sumadi M. Wonohito. Radar Jogja was also fined US$600,000 for defaming Sumadi. Indonesia’s Constitutional Court on August 15 dismissed a judicial review which sought to abolish articles in the criminal code that refer to defamation.

“Indonesia’s media environment is badly in need of legal reform,” IFJ Asia-Pacific said. “The media will not be able to report freely as long as companies and individuals continue to use defamation laws to silence criticism.”

The IFJ supports AJI’s campaign to appeal the decision against Tempo and to call for a comprehensive review of media laws in Indonesia to ensure a truly free media environment.

For more information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000 in 122 countries worldwide