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REGIONS:

SEAPA concerned over recent attacks on journalists


The following is a 29 March 2000 letter addressed to Her Excellency Megawati Soekarnoputri, Chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, by the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) Jakarta Office, of which AJI is a member:


March 29, 2000

Her Excellency Megawati Soekarnoputri
Chairwoman of Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan)
Office of PDI Perjuangan, Jalan Lenteng Agung No. 99
Jakarta Selatan, Indonesia
Sent by Fax: 62-21-7802824

Your Excellency,

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) Jakarta Office is greatly concerned over recent attacks against journalists by Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) security members (Satgas). The incidents threaten the ability of the media to do its job and call into question your party's commitment to press freedom.

This month we have documented two incidents in which two journalists have been attacked by PDI Perjuangan security members. On March 7, 2000 in Surabaya, East Java province, Erik Siswanto, a photographer for "Surya" daily, was beaten by PDI Perjuangan security members. This incident occurred just a few minutes after the inauguration of Surabaya's mayor and vice mayor in the city hall. After the inauguration, Bambang DH, the new vice mayor, who is also a cadre of PDI Perjuangan, met with hundreds of his supporters outside of the city hall. The party security members banned the journalists from covering the occasion without explanation. However, the photographers continued to take pictures, including Siswanto, who stood beside Bambang DH. But while Siswanto was taking pictures, a party security member punched him in the face and beat him.

On March 12, 2000 a similar incident occurred in Solo, Central Java. Sigit Tri Pamungkas, a photographer for "Libero" tabloid, was beaten by a member of PDIP security while he was taking pictures of a soccer match. Following a quarrel with a security member, Sigit was assaulted and beaten.

As an organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues and the promotion of press freedom, we have been heartened by the freedom which has been enjoyed by the press since the resignation of President Soeharto in 1998. But press freedom needs more than the absence of government censors, it also needs a secure environment so that journalists can fulfill their duties without intimidation and threats. If they are subject to attacks, the promise of press freedom is hollow. We remind you as the chairwoman of PDI Perjuangan, a party which is dedicated to establishing democracy in Indonesia, that threats to press freedom also threaten democracy.

We respectfully call on you to ensure that investigations into the attacks on the two journalists are carried out swiftly and that those responsible for the attacks are brought to justice. We also ask you to instruct your party security members to respect the rights of journalists to work freely.

We thank you for your attention to these matters and look forward to receiving your response.

Sincerely,

Lukas Luwarso
Director

Recommended Action


Similar appeals can be sent to:

Her Excellency Megawati Soekarnoputri
Chairwoman of Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan)
Office of PDI Perjuangan, Jalan Lenteng Agung No. 99
Jakarta Selatan, Indonesia
Fax: +62 21 780 2824

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