The Indonesian press has not been free from violence and abuse against journalists. There were more than 60 cases recorded from 2017 to March 2018, with at least 20 percent of the cases involving women journalists. Cases of violence against and harassment of women journalists have been high in Indonesia. But many of them do not reveal or prefer to keep silent.
As of this writing, Medan and DKI Jakarta had the most number of cases in general; Medan, highest against women journalists. The types of violence were in the form of expulsion or ban from coverage, threats of violence or terror, destruction of equipment, and labor-related issues in media companies.
Ramdeswati Pohan, head of FJPI and called Desi by colleagues, said the high number of violence against journalists in Indonesia contributes to the low rank of Indonesia in the press freedom index.
Dismissed while pregnant
Cases of female journalists, who were dismissed during pregnancy, contradict Indonesia’s labor code – Law on Manpower (2003) – and yet it happens.
At least 40 employees were discharged, a unilateral dismissal, including three women journalists – who are members of FJPI – in Medan, North Sumatra. They are Siti Amelia, Eko Fitri Brahmawati, and Anggia Nasution.
The three said that they did not get decent allowance from the company and were dismissed without prior notice. The Management and Human Resource Department from the headquarter office came for them to sign letters of dismissal. Amel was pregnant with her second child when the dismissal happened.
In another case, Medan journalist and FJPI member Mahbubah Lubis – 33, who worked at state radio RRI based in Medan – was also dismissed without prior notice in January 2018. She was three months pregnant at that time. (“Labor pains: Challenges of women journalists in Medan”)
The Independent Media Workers Union’s Sasmito Madrim briefly commented that the Indonesian Ministry of Manpower should handle the unilateral dismissal case on the closing of the Koran Sindo (Sindonews) regional bureau by the MNC Group in June 2017.
The years of service in these companies range from three (3) to more than 10 years. The journalists often worked for more than 10 hours a day. They were not paid properly and did not get social security or health insurance.
The termination of contracts included leaders at the MNC Group. Hary Tanoe’s subsidiary group, which involved Koran Sindo manpower, was deployed to another business unit of MNC Group. The closures occurred in East Java, Central Java, Yogyakarta, West Java, Medan, Palembang, Manado, and Makassar.
In August 2016, FJPI conducted assistance to a female journalist that experienced sexual harassment by the Indonesian Air Force (TNI AU) members. The coverage was about the land disputes in Medan.
DE, 25, was sexually harassed. The other five journalists with her were beaten; they are Array Argus (Tribune Medan), Teddy Akbari (Sumut Pos), Fajar Siddik (Medanbagus.com), Prayugo Utomo (Menaranews.com), and Andri Safrin (MNC News).
The incident involved the Indonesian Air Force personnel of Medan Airforce Base Soewondo. The journalists were covering the clashes between citizens and the TNI AU in Sari Rejo, Polonia, Medan, on 15 August 2016.
DE was physically attacked and verbally abuse. As she recounted, she was taking a picture with her camera of the clash in Teratai Street, Sari Rejo around the Air Force Base of Suwondo when a number of the TNI AU members chased her until she was cornered in one of the coconut ice sellers at the location.
“When cornered, some soldiers grabbed my chest. They then hit my stomach with the wooden sticks they carried. Then they threatened to stab my genital with the stick if I (continue) my work,” said DE.
DE panicked and felt powerless. She asked for help from the residents. The TNI AU soldiers seized her camera. But she was able to record the names of the three who allegedly committed the harassment.
“You had to go home otherwise we puncture your genital,” DE recalled the soldiers’ statement.
DE went to the Ervina Sembiring Clinic for her treatment due to shock. She went straight home to her family because she was really scared so her identification as a victim was delayed.
Diana Saragih, jurnalisperempuan.com journalist and FJPI member, assisted with the DE case and shared that there might be a cover up and the trial has stalled at the military court.
The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) deplored the slow process of handling these cases involving journalists.