Indonesia: Trial begins for journalist following news of land conflict

The trial of Diananta Putra Sumedi, former chief editor of local online media, banjarhits.id, began in Kotabaru District Court, South Kalimantan on June 8. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Indonesia calls on authorities to drop the case immediately as it has been resolved by the Press Council.

The Coalition for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Press Freedom held a protest to support Diananta Putra Sumedi. Credit: The Coalition for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Press Freedom

The online trial was held in line with health protocols amid the coronavirus outbreak.  The judges, prosecutors and lawyers were in the court room while Diananta was in the detention room in District Police of Kotabaru’s office. Diananta’s wife flew from East Java to be with her husband after months of not seeing each other.

Prosecutors alleged a land conflict article 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,caused hatred or hostility against individuals and groups.If found guilty, Diananta faces up to 6 years in prison. The next trial is scheduled for June 15.

Previously, the Journalist Safety Committee  and AJI regretted the decision to have the trials in Kotabaru instead of in the Banjarmasin District Court, the capital city of South Kalimantan. Diananta interviewed his sources, wrote and published the article in Banjarmasin and he currently lives close to  Banjarmasin. The witnesses are also based in Banjarmasin. The Committee has highlighted that the eight hour drive from of the  Kotabaru district from Banjarmasin  might impact on  Diananta’s legal defence as his lawyers are based in Banjarmasin and Jakarta.

The Committee also raised concerns about  the difficulties for the family members or lawyers to meet Diananta while he is in  police custody in Kotabaru. The Committee are also  concerned about the safety of Diananta particularly in light of an  incident involving  journalist M. Yusuf who died in custody in the prison in Kotabaru in 2018. 

AJI said: “AJI hopes the judges will drop the charge because the Press Council has already solved the issue and press freedom is guaranteed by Indonesian Constitution. AJI also calls Kumparan to take a responsibility and does not let Diananta fights for his rights alone.”

The IFJ said:“IFJ calls the authorities to drop all charges against Diananta and release him immediately so that he can be with his family. These trials, in worrying circumstances, are not necessary given that the Press Council has resolved this matter.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on 
+61 2 9333 0918

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

Find the IFJ Asia - Pacific IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific, on Facebook: IFJAsiaPacific and Instagram