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On the heels of a court ruling this month that declared criminal defamation against the government unconstitutional, articles in a draft bill would criminalise news reports and journalism during general elections, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) has found.

Article 260 of the draft Bill on General Elections states: "Every editor-in-chief of a print or electronic media who violates a ban on campaign reports during a cooling-off period... will be sentenced to a prison term of between three and six months and a fine of 1 million to 5 million Rupiah (US$108-$543)."

Article 103 says: "The mass media... are not allowed to publish news reports, advertisements, footage, or other forms, of participants of elections which may benefit and/or harm the participants of the elections during the cooling-off period."

The articles contrast "the effort by the press community to scrap legal articles that have the potential to criminalise news reports and journalists," AJI says. "Press freedom is needed so that the press can play the role of watchdog in monitoring the government and its workings."

AJI is now appealing to the House of Representatives to scrap the offending articles.

Visit these links:
- AJI's alert on the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) website:
- AJI's website:
- "IFEX Communiqué", "Criminal Defamation against Government Ruled Unconstitutional":
(31 July 2007)

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