Enemy of the State

3 January 2002
Source: Alert Magazine: November Edition

The press community must be aware. People’s Representative Council (DPR), along with other state agencies, is preparing to regain control of the press.

At a meeting between Syamsul Muarif, Minister of Information and Telecommunication, with Commission I DPRD members, the idea to revise Press Regulation No.40/1999 was launched.

PPP Representative Aisyah Aminy said at the meeting that the current law has failed in anticipating the downside of press freedom – pornography, provocative reporting, character assassination and the phenomenon of envelope mentality journalists.

A brief overview would agree on such revision. However, a deeper analysis would see that there are regulations to tackle all the ‘press crimes’ mentioned at the meeting. The State Criminal Code (KUHP) has all the articles for each of those violations – pornography, defamation, inaccurate reporting, etc.

Members of the press community have said for the past two years that the problem lies in the implementation of the KUHP, not the Press Law. However, several Council members had suggested revising the Press Law, instead of implementing the Criminal Code.

The other frightening factor in the state’s attempt to revise the Press Law is the possibility of new articles being added – articles on press crimes that are already explained in the KUHP. During the meeting, Minister Syamsul Muarif said his department at that time was formulating 37 regulations regarding press violations to be added in the revised Law.

To make things worse, the 37 new regulations were just taken straight from the KUHP which carries a large number of out of date Dutch colonial rules. Included also were hatzaai artikelen articles – subversive regulations against ruling powers. For instance, KUHP Article 134 states: “The person who insults President or Vice President would be sentenced a maximum of six years, or fined Rp4,500.” Or Article 155: “Whoever broadcast, screen or post text or picture promoting hatred and insult against the state in public, he/she will be sentenced to a maximum of four years and six months, or fined as mush as Rp4,500.”

In the past, especially during Soeharto’s New Order era, hatzaai artikelen articles have been used by the state to imprison those who were criticised of the ruling government.

So far since Soeharto had stepped down, the state had yet to use the out of date articles that often. However, many press experts said that like government transitional periods in the past, the current press freedom is still in the “honeymoon” period, where both government and the press are still trying to figure out its position in the transitional period. But when state power is consolidated, the press becomes more restricted.

The Soekarno regime was accommodative to the press between Indonesia’s initial independence (1945) to the end of the Parliamentary Democracy period (late 1950s). But in February 1965, the state banned 21 print publications in Jakarta and Medan. A month later, eight more followed in other cities.

The beginning of the New Order also followed the same pattern. Loose press control at the beginning, but then, as Soeharto had established his power, government authorities also flexed their muscle.

The end of the press freedom era was marked by the Malari incident in 1976 where authorities clashed with students. Following that, the Regime banned 12 media, and four years later, seven newspapers and seven campus papers. But that was only the tip of the iceberg. The biggest blow was in 1994 when the New Order Government closed down Tempo and Editor magazines, along with the Detik tabloid. The event led to the formation of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) where three of its activists were imprisoned for their struggle for press freedom.

The fall of Soeharto in May 1998 did not automatically guarantee freedom of the press.

During the Gus Dur Regime (1999 – 2001), the state had tried numerous times to gain control of the press. On January 26 this year, the transitional Department of Transport and Telecommunication attempted to establish the Broadcast Directory Body – a reincarnation of the old Radio, Film and Television Directory Body which died along with Soeharto’s Department of Information. Like the old body, the Broadcast Directory Body also aims to control broadcast contents. The department’s minister, Agum Gumelar, wrote in his official statement that: “The sub-directory of Radio and Television Broadcast has the task to facilitate broadcast contents, guideline formulations, development and control of radio and television programs …”

But the attempt to set up this bureaucratic body was blocked by the broadcast community – the National Private Radio of Indonesia Association (PRSNI), the Press and Broadcast Community group (MPPI) and the Indonesian Television Journalists’ Association (IJTI).

The wave of protest eventually stopped the process.

The broadcast community then had to face another pressure from the formation of the Film Censorship Body (LSF) and the drafting of the broadcast law.

In an official LSF letter dated September 28, 2000, the Body’s Chairperson, Tatiek Maliyati, wrote point three which states: “Before obtaining a Censorship Clearance, all recorded talk show programs covering the issues of politics, social, economy, culture and religion are subject for censorship.”

Broadcast activists were furious. The Indonesian Television Journalists’ Association (IJTI) publicly accused the LSF of obstructing press freedom. The group argued that a talk show program is a journalistic work according to Regulation No.40/1999 – not Regulation No.18/1999 on films.

Similar to the previous case, the wave of protest again stalled the process.

On February 20 this year, the People’s Representative Council presented its draft broadcast law. Out of the 63 articles in the draft regulation, 21 of them carry threats and fines, up to billions of rupiah, on broadcast violations. Radio 68H Director, Santoso, said the 21 articles were just copycats from other regulations.

“It’s surprising,” said Santoso. “Those articles have been regulated in the Criminal Code KUHP, Press Law and others.”

He said the fear among broadcast community was not fear of responsibility, but he said those “aggressive” regulations were made to “kill off creativity”.

Furthermore, Santoso argued the proposed broadcast law does not clearly indicate who would be authorised to register frequencies. Article 22 paragraph 4 (d) states: “license to broadcast is issued by the state after state allocates frequencies”.

However, paragraph 5 states: “licensing is issued by the state through the Indonesian Broadcast Commission”.

The thought of allowing full authority to the state to organise frequencies is concerning. In a corrupt and bureaucratic environment, the state-minded department could very well send broadcast media 10 years back.

At the same time, authorities in conflict areas tried to use Regulations No.23/1959 on Emergency State to silence the press. Local administrators, especially in Maluku and North Maluku, had used this regulation to threaten to ban publications which report stories on conflicts in the area.

In the present Megawati Regime, the press community is seeing the reincarnation of the old oppressive Information Ministry, this time under the name of the Communication and Information Ministry.

The state also plans to enact the draft Criminal Code KUHP. The old code carried 37 articles on press violations.

The new one carries 40.

The attempt to control the press could also be seen in the collaboration between the Communication and Information Ministry with the People’s Representative Council in revising the Press Law.

But even the current press law is far from perfect. Many media experts said Press Regulation No.40/1999 still has its weaknesses, allowing possible intervention from other parties. One main criticism is the normative regulation on utilising journalist code of ethic as positive law.

The Regulation also does not clearly explain on the consequences of press violations. Those were the distortions which initially invited revisions.

But the press community certainly should block a revision which only means putting more opressive articles that could endanger freedom of the press.

The press in Indonesian is still far from being free. Regulations, draft regulations and the Criminal Code KUHP are still out there to haunt journalists. To add to the complication, community groups also continue to take the law into their own hands.

The press and its journalists continue on to work in the environment of fear, with no safety guarantee.

In Memory: Journalist Casualties in Afghanistan

“Harry and his colleagues were driving through the route they had passed many times,” said Don Greenlees , Indonesian correspondent for The Australian newspaper.

“It wasn’t suppose to be a dangerous trip.”

But Reuters cameraman Harry Burton and three other correspondants did not make it to their destination – Kabul – on November 19.

Friends of Harry Burton and the Jakarta Foreign Correspondants’ Club gathered at the Mandarin Hotel, Jakarta on Friday, November 23 to celebrate the life of the Brisbane native. They all remembered the good natured rugby loving Aussie who was also a friend of many Indonesian journalists from covering rallies on the streets of Jakarta, to capturing the scenes of militia rampage in the streets of Dili, Timor Lorosa’e in 1999. He had been working for Reuters for the past 20 months.

Those killed along with Burton were Reuters colleague Azizullah Haidari (33), an Afghan-born photographer for the news agency; Julio Fuentes (46), a Spanish correspondent for the Madrid-based newspaper El Mundo; and Maria Grazia Cutuli (39), an Italian journalist for the Milan-based newspaper Corriere della Sera.

His colleague Azizullah Haidari, an Afghan refugee in Pakistan, had worked for Reuters since 1992. He was married and a father of a son and a girl. Recently, he expressed his desire to return to settle down in his country.

Maria Cutuli and Julio Fuentes published a scoop the day before the ambush about the discovery of bottles containing sarin gas in an abandoned Afghan camp, near Jalalabad.

Cutuli, a native of Sicily, had worked for the Corriere della Serra since 1997, for which she covered several conflicts. While Fuentes had been sent by El Mundo to Bosna, Salvador and Chechnya. He was married to an El Mundo journalist.

First reports indicated that the journalists were killed by armed-robbers between Jalalabad and Kabul. But The Sydney Morning Herald reported (22/11) that new evidence pointed to Taliban fighters instead.

Witnesses said the convoy was stopped by a group of gunmen who later ordered the journalists to follow them into the nearby hills. When the journalists refused, the men stoned the four victims. Then they shot them. No evidence of robbery was found.

The drivers were let go, warned they should never transport foreign journalists again.

The death toll has now reached eight dead, with recent murder of Swedish camera operator Ulf Strömberg of TV4 at midnight on November 26, and three earlier casualties on November 11.

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans Frontières – RSF) reported that Strömberg was killed in the night of 26 to 27 October. He was shot in the chest.

RSF sources said three unknown individuals, about fifteen years old, with masked faces, armed with Kalachnikov and daggers, entered a Taloqan house where the special envoys of the Swedish daily Aftonbladet and TV4 station had reside for several days.

The men first entered the room where the Aftonbladet journalists – Martin Adler and Bo Liden – and their Afghan translator were sleeping. They threatened the journalists with their weapons and took their satellite phone and money. They wanted to kill them but the Afghan translator pleaded for their lives.

The three robbers also tried to enter the room where the two TV4 reporters – Rolf Porseryd and Ulf Strömberg – were sleeping. The latter stood against the door, which he slammed closed when he saw the armed men. One of them then shot in the journalists’ direction. Strömberg collapsed. After the robbers escaped his colleagues tried to resuscitate Strömberg. The journalist died a few minutes later in the car which was taking him to hospital.

Earlier on November 11, Johanne Sutton, a reporter for Radio France Internationale; Pierre Billaud of Radio Television Luxembourg, and Volker Handloik, a freelance reporter on assignment for the German news magazine Stern, were killed when Taliban forces fired on their Northern Alliance military convoy with a rocket-propelled grenade.

Canadian journalist Ken Hechtman was also detained by the Taliban for one week in late November. But the freelance journalist was handed over to the Pakistani police on November 23 at the Chaman border post (southwestern Pakistan).

Hechtman told the press that he was not kidnapped but rather arrested by the Taliban, who suspected him of being a spy. He was detained in the Spin Boldak Hospital.

Keith Loveard of the online media Laksamana.net, told the Jakarta Post daily (26/11) that media workers often take fatal risks.

“The death of Burton and his three colleagues at the hands of Taliban strangglers is, regrettable as it may be, the inevitable risk posed by those who elect to work for the world’s action-hungry media empires,” said Loveard.

But CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said the murder was unjustable.

“War is no justification for murder,” said Ms Cooper. “If these four journalists were in fact executed, then the perpetrators must be brought to justice.”


Bull Rage

Surabaya/EAST JAVA (December 6): More than 50 supporters of an ousted official from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) rampaged the office of the Jawa Pos daily, located at Level 4 of the Graha Pena Building.

The ousted party man, Basuki, was Chair of both the PDIP Surabaya Branch as well as the East Java Parliament. He was at the time, being questioned for a corruption case.

For the past weeks, Jawa Pos had been reporting the Basuki case. The biggest paper in eastern Indonesia reported that the PDIP leader made Rp2 billion in one year.

But the story blew out as Jawa Pos ran the article titled “Tragic! Basuki Fired!” on December 4. The story quoted a statement made by Sutjipto, Secretary General of the PDIP Central Organising Council, saying that after a PDIP meeting in Jakarta, attended by President Megawati, the council decided to sack Basuki.

The story angered Basuki’s supporters. They thought the sacking was not proper.

But they did not take their anger to PDIP. The took it to Jawa Pos instead.

This was not the first office attack for Jawa Pos. The first seizure happened in May 2000, where hundreds of paramilitary members of the Nahdatul Ulama group protested against the paper’s portrayal of the then Prsident Abdurahman Wahid.

But unlike the first attack, the PDIP men did not shut the office electricity. They immediately agreed for a dialog.

Jawa Pos’ “Metropolis” editors – Imam Syafii and Kurniawan – managed to make peace with the angry men who threatened to “sweep” Jawa Pos journalists found wondering at the Surabaya Parliament House.

Not In My House!

Medan/NORTH SUMATERA (December 4): Sumut Pos photographer was harassed and assaulted by Bank Indonesia security guard as he was capturing the scene of the bank during the Ramadan period.

Edi Purnomo of Sumut Pos said he had approached a customer, requesting if he could take photos of him as he was transferring cash. The customer agreed.

“As I was about to take a photo, the security guard came and blocked me, grabbed me by the collars,” Purnomo said.

The photographer complained, but the guard yelled back.

“This is my home,” Purnomo recalled his attacker. “I have the authority to forbid you from taking photographs.”

“This isn’t your house,” the journalist yelled back. “This place belongs to the state.”

The bank security man snapped. He slapped the photographer’s face and shouted: “Get out, get out.”

“I was dragged out as if I was a bank robber,” Purnomo said. He said other police officers on the scene did not help him either.

“They even helped the security guard pulling me out of the bank,” he said.

The Sumut Pos daily, along with four other press organisations – the AJI Medan Chapter, the Reformed Indonesian Press Association (PWI-Reformasi), KIPPAS and the Medan Photographers’ Association – had written a complaint to Bank Indonesia and Medan Police for the guard’s misuse of authority.

Attack at Dawn

Jayapura/PAPUA (November 25): A number of unknown individuals rampaged the office of the Jayapura Chapter of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI). Neighbours reported sounds of rocks being thrown at glass windows between midnight to 1am. None dared to come out to check.

In the morning, AJI Papua members found the office with its windows shattered and front door destroyed. The secretariat was empty at the time of the attack.

Frits Ramandey of AJI Papua said the attack was only done from the outside.

“We did not find any suspicious footprints inside the building,” said Ramandey. “There were seven rocks inside, sized between a human fist to a head.”

Ramandey said Jayapura Police had confirmed that the there was more than one person involved in the rock throwing.

AJI Papua has so far not been able to figure out the motive of the attack. For the past year, the new AJI Chapter has been advocating journalist rights issues, from defending assaulted press workers to envelope journalism.

Official Eviction

Makassar/SOUTH SULAWESI (November 16): Officers kicked out journalists from Makassar Police Headquarters just past midnight as the press came to confirm a story on the arrest of Gowa Administrator a drug-related crime.

The journalists said the officers received them well at the beginning. But as SCTV camera operator Iwan Taruna started to film, the officers panicked.

“Who gave you permission to film in here?” asked an officer.

Makassar Police Executive Antoni Hutabarat came to the scene and told the camera operator to stop shooting. He got angry when asked of the Gowa Administrator case, telling the journalists to leave the station.

The next day, several journalists followed up the story with Police Chief Firman Gani, who told them that the person arrested was not the Gowa Administrator Yasin Lampo. But he confirmed that Lampo was staying at a nearby Hotel Sedona.

Detik.com reporter Abdul Haerah and Kompas correspondent Sidik Pramono soon filed their stories, as told by Police. Not long, the two journalists separately reported that they were called by unknown individuals, threatening and demanding to meet each of them.

Offensive Blockade

Jakarta (October 31): Members of the Ka’bah Movement Youth (GPK) injuring at least three journalists and prevented them from doing their work at the Attorney General Office.

On the day of the incident, a large number of journalists were waiting for Chairperson of the People’s Representative Council Akbar Tanjung, who was to be questioned for a corruption case. But as Tanjung’s Land Cruiser jeep (plate number: B 8672 VG) rolled into the Office compound, members of the GPK organization also went in and for no known reason, set up human blockade around the jeep, preventing photographers from taking photos of the Chairperson.

The photographers were angry. They demanded the GPK members to either stop disturbing their work or leave the compound. But the youth group continued with the blockade. Then both groups clashed.

Three journalists were victims in the clash – Surya daily photographer Dodok HW, Kompas photographer Danu and Triwijaya FM Radio reporter Bambang Setiaji.

Dodok HW suffered cuts to the left side of his forehead from being hit by a road signpost. Danu suffered bruises on his head from being hit by a blunt object, while Setiaji lost his glasses after being punched by GPK members.

In Brief

For the past three years of the free press era, the Indonesian press has been bombarded with all kinds of threats and violence. The perpetrators – government authorities and community groups. The media’s often mistake of being ‘too free’ is being used as the reason for many groups to retaliate against misreportings by use of violence. Street justice, terror and destruction of media offices are real physical threats to press freedom, preventing journalists from working professionally.

But aside from physical threats, the Indonesian press is also facing a no less frightening form of attack – regulatory threat. The out of date Indonesian Criminal Code carries at least 35 articles on press crimes. There are numerous other regulations that state authorities have been using to trap journalists – Broadcast Laws, State Safety Regulation, Consumer Regulation and Enterprise Regulation. These directives carry represive and preventive aspects that could threaten freedom of the press.

Recently, the repressive regulatory threats have come from the Press Law itself, marked by the return of Liscence to Publish. First introduced in 1966, it was revised with Regulation No.21/1982. This article had victimised a number of prominent publications prior to Soeharto’s step down, naming the weekly political magazines Tempo and Editor, as well as the tabloid Detik.

Many media experts have said that eventhough the new Press Regulation No.40/1999 is generally acceptable, there is still a lot of holes. Like its predecessors, the current regulation could still very well be used to trap to press freedom.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

x Logo: Shield Security
This Site Is Protected By
Shield Security