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Libel sentence ignores Press Law, says press council

(AJI/IFEX) - Indonesia's Press Council expressed dissatisfaction with the East Jakarta District Court's decision on 15 July 2009 convicting two businessmen of defaming a property giant due to a complaint letter they posted in several newspapers.

In an interview with the "Jakarta Post", Sabam Leo Batubara, the head of the public complaint unit at the Press Council, said that according to the Press Law, the newspapers should be the parties responsible for the letter.

The court sentenced Khoe Seng Seng and Kwee Meng Luan to a six-month suspended jail term for defaming developer PT Duta Pertiwi. The two tenants of the company's ITC Mangga Dua shopping center will serve the prison term if they issue a defamatory statement against the company in the next 12 months.

Leo said the developer should have exercised its right to reply by posting a statement in the same newspapers and, if necessary, sought a settlement that involved the Press Council as mediator, in accordance with the Press Law.

He encouraged the public to maintain their critical views despite the verdict.

"If you feel cheated, you should complain. If anything bad happens, we will surely give assistance," he said.

Both Seng Seng and Meng Luan will appeal the court ruling. Leo said the Press Council would help them challenge the verdict.

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