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Free expression advocate could face prison for libel and defamation

(AJI/IFEX) - A freedom of expression advocate was charged with libel and defamation by the South Sulawesi Regional Police Office in Indonesia.

The chief of the South Sulawesi Regional Police Office, Police Inspector General Sisno Adiwinoto, accused Upi Asmaradana, the coordinator of the Coalition of Journalists against Criminalisation of the Press, of libel and defamation.

Libel and defamation carry a prison term in Indonesia.

Upi was charged on 10 November 2008 under several articles on libel and defamation under Indonesia's Criminal Code. Upi is a member of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), Makassar Chapter and a former Metro TV contributor.

Upi is alleged to have "provoked journalists to resist the head of the South Sulawesi Regional Police Office".

AJI said the coalition was established by Upi to counter Sisno's statements promoting criminalisation of the media.

General Sisno was quoted in numerous public appearances telling the audience that whenever they felt slighted by the media, they should just go and sue the journalists, instead of sending letters to the editor or using the Press Law's complaint and resolution procedures.

The coalition has reported its concerns to the National Police Commission, the National Parliament, the National Commission of Human Rights, Indonesia's Press Council and the President.

AJI condemned the general's actions and issued a demand to the South Sulawesi Regional Police Office to make full use of Law No. 40/1999 on the Press and Article 28 of the 1945 Constitution on freedom of expression and opinion. It also called on the chief of the South Sulawesi Regional Office to take matters proportionally instead of abusing his power to repress journalists or any member of civil society for merely exercising his or her constitutional rights.

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