The essence of press freedom and freedom to access information as stipulated in Article 28 of the Second Amendment of the 1945 Constitution has not been fully materialized. Various obstacles, threats and violence against the press and journalists occurred in 2006, in a worrying intensity.
According to the record of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), from January to December 2006, 53 cases of violence against journalists and press happened in Indonesia. During the same period in 2005, AJI had recorded 43 cases of violence. The record of violence against the press this year has ranked Indonesia at 103rd place of 168 countries in the press freedom index according to Reporter Sans Frontiers (RSF), a France-based organization that protect journalists.
Jakarta has been recorded as the unsafest place for press and journalists with 16 cases of violence. Other dangerous places for press are East Java (7 cases) and West Java (6 cases). The modus of violence against press has varied, ranging from physical abuse to harassment against journalistic profession. By the end of 2006, AJI recorded physical abuse as case with the highest number, totaling 28, followed by lawsuits against press totaling 7 cases. (See table of violence).
From the aspect of perpetrators of the violence, the highest number goes to mobs (15 cases), government apparatus (7 cases), and police apparatus (7 cases). This record of perpetrators of violence against press needs to receive attention because the culture of violence has shifted from the New Order-inherited state and apparatus to mobs (ordinary people). AJI slammed violent acts by any parties and expressed concerns because some of the perpetrators had been government and police apparatus, who should have given good examples in solving problems in civilized ways.
Until early 2007, there are still three cases of murders against journalists, which have not been clearly solved, namely the murder case of Fuad Muhammad Syafruddin (Udin), journalist of Bernas daily of Yogyakarta (August 16, 1996), the death case of Elyudin Telaumbanua, journalist of Berita Sore daily of Medan, who was kidnapped (August 24, 2005) and the murder case of Herliyanto, freelance journalist in Probolinggo, East Java (April 29, 2006). The three cases of murders against the journalists have completed other dark numbers, such as the murder of activist Munir, SH, and other cases of human rights violations in the past.
Another serious threat has come from the draft bill of the Criminal Code (R-KUHP), which is currently being deliberated by the House of Representatives (DPR) and the government. In the new R-KUHP, there are 61 crucial articles, which are potential to harm political civil freedom, including press freedom. As comparison, in the current KUHP, there are still 37 crucial articles, which can send journalists to jail. AJI endlessly says that if a journalist commits a criminal act (blackmail, fraud, robbery, etc.), punish him or her, but don’t send a journalist to jail for a report he or she writes.
As of today, there are still four criminal cases against press reports, which are still in trial proceedings, namely the case of Supratman (executive editor of Rakyat Merdeka daily) for insulting the president, Risang Bima Wijaya (editor-in-chief of Radar Yogya) in a defamation case, Teguh Santosa (executive editor of Rakyat Merdeka Online) in the case of insulting a religion, and Karim Paputungan (editor-in-chief of Rakyat Merdeka daily) in a defamation case. In the era of democracy, criminalization and using the Criminal Code against press reports should have been lifted.
AJI has also recorded that there are two draft bills (RUU), which deliberations have been postponed at DPR, namely the draft bill on Protection for Witnesses and the draft bill on Freedom to Access Public Information (KMIP). In the view of AJI, both RUUs will speed up the process of democratization and just law enforcement in Indonesia.
In particular, AJI has recorded several protruding cases in 2006, such as murders against journalists, trial against press and efforts to arbitrarily fire journalists by media companies. AJI regretted a dismissal, accompanied by physical abuses (by the media’s security officers) committed by a national media, which has been prominent so far for always voicing conscience, anti-violence spirit and democracy.
By this release, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Indonesia stated as follows:
- Demanding the Indonesian government and all state apparatus to guarantee the safety of journalists and ensure press freedom.
- Urging the National Police to fully complete investigations on murders against journalists and other violent cases immediately and drag the perpetrators to justice.
- Asking the Indonesian government and DPR to implement their commitment for democracy and law enforcement by not creating legal products, which are not in line with the spirit of democracy, respect to human rights and political civil freedom.
- Urging media companies in Indonesia to meet the basic rights of press workers, respect the freedom to set up trade unions in companies and avoid violence in solving problems.
- Calling all sides and public who feel of being hurt by press reports to take the mechanism of ‘’the rights to respond’’ already provided by the Law Number 40 Year 1999 on Press, and regard the Press Council as ‘’a court for media.’’
Jakarta, January 3, 2007
President Coordinator of the Advocacy Division
Heru Hendratmoko Eko Maryadi