Journalists attacked, social media blocked as riots break out in Indonesia

Journalists were attacked and social media was blocked, as protests broke out in central Jakarta on May 22. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the South East Asia Journalist Unions (SEAJU) join IFJ affiliate the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) in condemning the attacks on media and the government-led social media blocks over the past 24 hours in Indonesia. The IFJ and SEAJU demand the authorities end the block on social media, and investigate the attacks.

Protests broke out in Jakarta on May 22 which saw several journalists attacked. Credit: BAY ISMOYO / AFP

On Wednesday, protesters gathered in central Jakarta near the Election Agency to denounce the presidential election result, which named incumbent Joko Widodo as the winner. The protests quickly turned violent, as protesters clashed with police. According to AJI there were at least seven journalists attacked while they were covering the protests. CNN Indonesia journalists Budi Tanjung and Ryan, MNC Media journalist Ryan, Radio Sindo Trijaya journalist Fajar, Alinea.id journalist Fadli Mubarok as well as a reporter and camerperson from RTV were attacked as they covered the protests. AJI’s Jakarta chapter is still processing complaints and reports of attacks and expect the number of journalists attacked to rise.

Budi Tanjung from CNN Indonesia was hit on the head, and his video was forcibly erased from phone by members of the Police Mobile Brigade. Ryan from CNN Indonesia was recording video of police capturing a suspect, when the police confiscated his phone and forced him to erase the video. He was also hit on the face and upper body by police officers. Budi and Ryan both identified themselves as journalists, but were continually attacked.

While the protests were taking place, the government implemented a social media ban and internet speeds slowed. Whatsapp and Facebook were blocked. Although access was only meant to be blocked in areas near the protests, reports found the block was more widespread. As of Thursday morning, Whatsapp was accessible intermittently, and internet speeds were back to normal. Several journalists had to switch platforms to communicate and share information.

This was the first time the Indonesian Government had block access to the internet and social media since they had blocked Telegram in July 2017.

AJI urged the security forces to fully investigate the violence and intimidation against journalists by the police and members of the public. “We also call to the heads of media organizations to take responsibility over the safety of journalists on field duty and ask journalists covering the mass protests to put safety first by staying at safe distance during a riot,” AJI said.

The SEAJU said: “We demand that all those proven to be complicit in attacking and impeding journalists from performing their tasks be made accountable to the fullest extent of the law. We also join AJI's call for security forces and the public to respect freedom of the press, and on media owners to take responsibility for ensuring the safety of their journalists and other staff.”

The IFJ said: "We strongly condemn the attacks to journalists both by the police and by the protestors, who are simply doing their job. We need all the parties to respect the journalists’ rights and ensure the safety of journalists on duty. It is journalists’ commitment to report from the field, in this case from the conflict area to inform the public on the latest situation. Only by ensuring their safety, journalists can fulfil their jobs. We also condemn the actions of the government in blocking social media and slowing internet speeds, during times of conflict it is important the media are able to communicate and report freely.”

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