Indonesia: Press Council by-passed as journalist found guilty of inciting hatred

Diananta Putra Sumedi, a former chief editor of online local media banjarhits.id, was found guilty and sentenced to three months 15 days for his reporting of a land dispute. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Indonesia express dismay over the conviction and call on authorities to stop criminalising journalists.

Diananta Putra Sumedi in the courtroom. Credit: The Coalition for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Press Freedom

The panel of judges lead by Meir Elisabeth at the hearing in Kotabaru District Court, South Kalimantan on August 10 said that Diananta was guilty of inciting hatred and breaching the code of journalism ethics. The judges ruled he violated the article of 28 of the Information and Electronic Transactions Law (ITE Law).

Diananta was arrested by the special crimes investigation directorate of South Kalimantan despite the Indonesian Press Council resolving the dispute in January, 2020. He published an article on a land conflict entitled Johnlin seizes land, Dayak complains to the South Kalimantan Police on November 9, 2019 in banjarhits.id, a partner of national news media Kumparan. Sukirman from a Dayak community council filed a report against Diananta after the publication of the article. Although the dispute has been resolved through mediation process in the Press Council, the trial of Diananta still continued.

Criminalisation of journalists is an ongoing violation against journalists in Indonesia. Despite the fact that the police have signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indonesian Press Council to settle legal disputes, journalists are still being dragged before the courts.

Speaking to the reporters after the trial, Diananta said that the conviction is a very bad precedent for press freedom in Indonesia.

AJI said: “The attempts of the Press Council to resolve this case did not stop the case to be brought to trial. It shows that ITE Law can be easily used to criminalise and intimidate journalists and critical media covering land disputes.”

The IFJ said:“IFJ has monitored Diananta’s the case closely, including preparing an amicus curiae submission, and fully supports the settlement reached by the Press Council. It is disappointing that authorities have overridden the Press Council’s decision. IFJ regrets the conviction and urges the authorities to seriously ensure journalists’ safety and press freedom in the country.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

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

Twitter: @ifjasiapacific, on Facebook: IFJAsiaPacific and Instagram