Arson Attack on Newspapers Truck Condemned

24 July 2003
Source: SEAPA Jakarta

Your Excellencies,

1. Commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI)
General Endriartono Sutarto
Ph: +62 (21) 84591240
Fax: +62 (21) 84591247

2. Military emergency Authority in Aceh Major General Endang Suwarya

3. President of GAM Hasan Tiro
Fax: +4685 319 1275
+4685 318 3833

Dear Sirs,

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) Jakarta condemns the arson attack by unidentified armed men on Serambi Indonesia delivery trucks in Indonesia’s war-torn province Aceh in two separate occasions in mid July 2003.

The first attack occurred in the morning of July 17, 2003. At that time, the paper’s Isuzu Panther pickup truck was returning to Aceh’s capital Banda Aceh after making runs to the western district town of Meulaboh. When the truck arrived near the Babahdua Bridge in the town of Lamno Jaya, three men armed with pistols stopped the car. They then ordered the two Serambi employees in the car to step out. The armed men then took over the vehicle and drove for a kilometre before burning the Panther.

The second arson attack took place in the Balee Baroh village, North of Aceh, also in the morning of July 23, 2003. While the first attack involved an empty truck, the second pickup was carrying a full load of 10 thousand copies of Serambi papers to be distributed in Lhoksuemawe. When the vehicle arrived at the village (30 kilometre from Lhoksuemawe), five men with pistols halted the car. They jumped into the truck and forced the driver to drive away from the Banda Aceh – Medan highway. After a while, the men ordered the two Serambi drivers to leave and then torched the loaded truck.

Local journalists suspected the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) personnels as the perpetrators. They said some GAM officials have expressed anger towards the only running Acehnese daily newspaper since Serambi never published GAM statements since Martial Law was in place on May 19, 2003. The Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) have demanded all Indonesian publications not to publish any statements made by GAM, Martial Law’s Major General Endang Suwarya urged the press on May 20, 2003 to report on the framework of the “unity of the nation”.

Since it started publishing in 1989, Serambi has lost 10 cars due to arsons. The two attacks were the first since the Martial Law. SEAPA Jakarta has recorded at least 23 cases of attacks against journalists on the 67th day of war (July 24, 2003) in the forms of threat, shooting, intimidation, assault, eviction, arson and obstruction.

SEAPA Jakarta again urges the TNI and GAM to respect freedom of the press and protect the work of the journalists. The existence of the press is crucial, as it needs to provide accurate information on the conditions in Aceh. Moreover, such accurate reporting requires a safe working condition where journalists could work without fear.

Yours Respectfully,

Lukas Luwarso Solahudin
Executive Director Advocacy Coordinator

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