Indonesia: Journalist attacked while covering Sumatra land conflict

MNC group journalist Indra Yoserizal was attacked by security officers from a forestry company while covering a clash between the company and residents in Pelalawan, Riau province on the island of Sumatra on February 4. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Indonesia call on authorities for direct investigation of the company to ensure the perpetrators are identified and brought to justice.

Journalist of MNC Media Group Indra Yoserizal has reported the attack case at the Pekanbaru Regional Office. Credit: The Association of Indonesian Television Journalists (IJTI).

Yoserizal and several other journalists were covering the land conflict between the forestry company and residents at Gondai village, Pelalawan - a regency of Riau. The origins of the dispute stemmed from Nusa Wana Raya’s recent Supreme Court victory against another companyPeputra Supra Jaya, which it accused of operating an illegal palm plantation on the land.

Many residents involved in the conflict worked as plasma farmers and collaborated with Peputra Supra Jaya. Plasma smallholders are palm oil farmers who partner with a local company providing technical support as part of an overall agreement to sell their produce to that company. The Pelalawan farmers continue to claim Nusa Wana Raya took their land.

In the clash, around 100 Nusa Wana Raya security officers and residents confronted one another, with each side hurling stones. Yoserizal filmed security officers throwing stones after which several security officers grabbed and kicked the journalist. Security officers continued the attack even after Yoserizal had identified himself as a television journalist. They also detained Yoserizal and seized his equipment, which is yet to be returned. Yoserizal suffered bruising to his body and hands. He reported the case to the Pekanbaru Regional Office with the report letter No. STPL/69/II/ 2020/SPKT/RIAU. The company subsequently issued an apology, but the journalist is pursuing legal action for the attack.

In a joint statement with the Indonesian Journalists Safety Committee, AJI urged police to investigate the matter and punish all perpetrators. Under Indonesia’s Press Law, perpetrators who deliberately obstruct journalists’ work can be jailed up to two years or fined up to 500 million rupiahs (USD 36,000).

AJI said: “We also demanded the company or Nusa Wana Raya to impose sanctions to those offenders . . . We call all the parties in the country to respect journalists and protect them while they are on duty.”

The IFJ said: “Land conflicts such as that in Sumatra are a critical issue in Indonesia and the media has every right to report and be safe to do so in the course of their duties. A thorough investigation should be conducted into Nusa Wana Raya’s operations, particularly its security personnel. The IFJ calls on the Indonesian government to adhere to its obligations to a safe and free media in Indonesia by ensuring that security personnel are trained and familiarised with Indonesia’s Press Law and those found guilty of violating that law are punished.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on [email protected]

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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