Closure of might affect flow of information on Aceh; Defiant Journalists to set up alternative online news site on Aceh

30 September 2005
Source: Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)

Indonesia’s most popular news website on Aceh, “Acehkita”, has been closed down since16 September following an internal dispute between the Publishers and the Union employees and journalists over organisational management including a dismissal of a chief editor.

On 26 September, Chief Editor Dandhy Dwi Laksono, whose dismissal was one cause for the Union protest, said Union journalists might be forced to launch an alternative news about Aceh if the negotiation with the publishers reached an impasse.

Until now none of the staff could access to the Jakarta-based office building which was ordered closed by the management since 16 September. The stand-off also resulted in the temporary closure of the monthly magazine Acehkita and newly-launched weekly magazine of the same name.

“The internal dispute should not affect the flow of information about Aceh. We need to keep the public informed of the situation there,” Dandhy earlier told SEAPA.

Media experts regretted if the closure of would eventually be permanent since it has played a leading role in serving the public with flow of information about Aceh during the martial law time.

The closure of also comes at a time when the public needs information about the developments in peace building process following the signing of a peace agreement between the government and the separatist Free Aceh movement (GAM) in July.

It followed the Union’s protest against a failure by Board of Founders of Acehkita Foundation to meet its demand for transparency in the management and a resignation of Smita Notosusan as chief executive of the Foundation to show her responsibility for an alleged misuse of the Foundation’s funds. On 12 September, the publishers suggested Dandhy resign or face dismissal. They only agreed to ask an independent auditor to look into the Foundation’s finance.

According to Dandhy, he believed he was targeted because he has opposed the use of Foundation’s humanitarian funds for Tsunami relief operation in Acenh for commercial purpose.  The chief editor said he also opposed a Foundation’s recent decision to publish a weekly magazine in Aceh using the same name of Acehkita, in a commercial deal struck with a publishing company. He claimed the deal violated Indonesia’s law on incorporation of Foundation since the Foundation was non-profit entity and should not allow its assets to be shared with profit-making organisation.

The publishers have argued Acehkita Foundation needed to enter into business to raise local fund in order to reduce its dependence on external funding

Launched on 19 July 2003, Acehkita has been operating news website in Bahasa and English and publishes a monthly magazine about the North Sumatra Island province of Aceh in defiance of the martial law, imposed by the government to control access to information there. The province was then plagued with continued fighting between the Indonesia army and the GAM.

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