Indonesia: Police attack journalists covering protests across the country

At least 28 journalists, covering protests against Omnibus Law, were attacked by police in Indonesia on October 8. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Indonesia condemn the assaults and demand a thorough investigation into police behaviour.

Riot police launch tear gas to disperse student protesters in Bandung, West Java, October 7, 2020. Credit: Timur Matahari/AFP

Since October 5, widespread protests have occurred in several major Indonesian cities, including Jakarta, Surabaya in East Java and Samarinda in East Kalimantan, following the passing of the controversial Omnibus Law. Both workers and students, protesting en masse, demand the government revoke the bill, which relaxes many of the existing Indonesian labour, business and environmental laws to stimulate economic investment. Unions and activists say the Omnibus Law diminishes existing rights, benefits and environmental issues.

The protests have largely been motivated by #ReformasiDikorupsi (Corruption Reform), a civil society movement founded to protest the revision of the Corruption Eradication Commission Law at the end of October 2019.

According to the advocacy division of AJI Indonesia, 28 journalists were assaulted: eight in Jakarta, two in Bandung, three in Semarang, five in Samarinda, six in Surabaya, one in Tanjung Pinang and three in Palu.

In Jakarta, Tohirin, a journalist, was struck on the head and had his mobile phone destroyed by police while covering the protestor arrests. He did not use his mobile to capture or record the arrest, yet police still confiscated and checked his phone, smashing the device when pictures of police violence were discovered. Five Jakarta based professional journalists and several student journalists were arrested on October 8 and released the following day. In Palu, Fikri, an employee of Nexteen Media, was approached by a plain clothes policeman and beaten when he attempted to take a photo.

The AJI calls the national police to investigate those incidents and bring all the perpetrators to justice: “We want to remind all sides to ensure the safety of journalists. When journalists conduct the activities of their profession, they are protected by law. We demand an investigation to hold the perpetrators accountable.”

The IFJ said: “The IFJ is perturbed by the latest attacks on journalists in Indonesia. The  perpetrators must be charged and we urge the authorities to do more to control police violence.”

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

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

Twitter: @ifjasiapacific, on Facebook: IFJAsiaPacific and Instagram