Indonesia: Multiple journalists harassed for fuel smuggling coverage

Multiple journalists have been harassed and intimidated for their coverage of fuel smuggling in Mataram in the West Nusa Tenggara province. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate, the Alliance of Independence Journalists (AJI) Indonesia, in condemning these incidents of harassment and urges local authorities to protect the safety of journalists in Indonesia.

Journalist Haris Mahtul (R) meets with an employee of the Mataram Legal Aid Institute (C) and a representative of Kasta NTB (L) to return a bribe intended to stifle fuel smuggling coverage on September 5. Credit: NTBSatu.com

On August 31, Haris Mahtul, chief editor of local news website NTBSatu.com, and a fellow journalist were threatened at a Mataram hotel by Lalu Wink Haris, the head of local non-government organisation (NGO) Kasta NTB for Mahtul’s coverage of alleged fuel smuggling in the region.

After refusing a bribe of IDR 10 million (approx. USD 670) intended to stifle future coverage of the issue, Mahtul was assaulted by Wink, who restrained the journalist and placed two envelopes of cash into his pocket.

Despite accepting the money out of fear for his safety and agreeing to temporarily block online access to his story, Mahtul continued to receive threatening phone calls from Wink. After multiple letters from AJI Mataram, a representative of the NGO finally came to collect the money from Mahtul on September 5.

In a separate incident on September 1, Mugni Ilma, a reporter for NTBSatu.com, and other journalists from local news website Radar Mandalika, were also harassed for their coverage of fuel smuggling in the region.

In recent months, multiple journalists and media workers in Indonesia have been harassed, intimidated, or assaulted in attempts to repress media coverage. On July 9, journalist Sofyan Muhammadiyah was harassed while covering student demonstrations against the Maluku Governor, Murad Ismail, in Maluku. Last week, Nurcholis Lamau, an editor with online news outlet Cermat, was repeatedly assaulted by family members of Tidore Island’s deputy mayor after publishing an article on air pollution.

AJI said: “We condemn the intimidation faced by journalists, including pushing media workers to receive bribes. AJI calls all parties to respect the freedom of the press and to not despise the journalist profession.”

The IFJ said: “The harassment of journalists covering issues in the public interest is a serious violation of press freedom. The IFJ urges local authorities to hold all individuals that attempt to intimidate or bribe media workers in Indonesia to account.”

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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