SEAPA Jakarta Protest Attacks on Journalists in Aceh

24 May 2003

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) Jakarta condemns the attacks on journalists and media offices in Aceh since the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) declared war against the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) on May 19, 2003. SEAPA has recorded seven attacks so far in the forms of shooting, terror, burning and kidnapping.

The first shooting of a media car occurred on May 23, 2003 when TV7 van was riddled with bullets as the TV crew was entering the town of Sigli in the district of Pidie. On the following day, it was the RCTI’s turn to have its car as shooting target in the same district. Also on May 24, 2003, the car belonging to Metro TV and Media Indonesia was shot as the crews entered the Blang Mane village in the District of Bireuen. The car was following a TNI convoy and it has a visible “Metro TV” sticker on each side of the van. Journalists said they suspected GAM members to be involved in the shooting. No journalist was harmed during the shootings.

On May 21, 2003 in a separate location 25km east of Banda Aceh, unidentified arsonists set fire to the Regional 1 transmitter tower belonging to the state-owned Radio Republik Indonesia (RRI).

On May 23, 2003, private radio station Andyta, located in the District of Bireuen, stopped broadcasting due to threats from GAM.

A Banda Aceh TVRI crew Muhammad Jamal was reportedly ki9dnapped as he was working in his office. Neither the fate of Jamal nor the motive of the kidnapping has yet to be known.

Also in Banda Aceh, private station Radio Nikoya 106 FM Banda Aceh announced on May 24, 2003 that it has stopped broadcasting news due to death threats by GAM for airing TNI statements.

As an organisation that promotes freedom of the press, SEAPA Jakarta deplores such acts that obstructed the work of journalists and threatened both media workers and offices. SEAPA would like to give strong reminders to all conflicting parties in the war of Aceh that violence against the press would also violate public’s right for accurate information.

SEAPA Jakarta urges all the conflicting parties to honour United Nation’s resolution on protection of journalists stated in Protocol I, Geneva Convention on Protection of Civilians at War (1949) Article 79, Paragraph 1 which states that journalists reporting in an armed conflict must be treated as civilians, therefore they must not be attacked.

Jakarta, May 24, 2003

Yours Respectfully,

Lukas Luwarso Solahudin
Country Director Advocacy Coordinator

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