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Media groups denounce civil suit filed against eight media outlets

(AJI/IFEX) - In a 17 May 2010 joint statement, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), the Association of Indonesian Journalists (PWI) and the Indonesian Television Association (IJTI) expressed concern over the multi-million dollar civil defamation charges filed against eight media organisations:

The multi-million dollar civil defamation charges filed by Raymond Teddy against eight media organizations - "Kompas", Kompas.com, RCTI, "Republika", Detik.com, "Seputar Indonesia", "Warta Kota", and "Suara Pembaruan" - creates a chilling effect on the press in its coverage of criminal cases. These charges were filed when the media reported Raymond's arrest during a police raid on a suspected gambling den on 24 October 2008 in Hotel Sultan, Jakarta. Raymond accused the eight media outlets of defaming him when they referred to him as the "boss of gamblers" in their news reports. As a result, Raymond sued the media outlets for damages ranging from US$10 million to US$30 million.

Fact-based, Code of Ethics-based, accurate news reports are protected under Press Law no. 40/1999. The fact shows that the reports published by these eight media are accurate - as affirmed by the National Police Headquarters of Indonesia.

Raymond Teddy has a right to reply against the "boss of gamblers" label - as recommended by the Press Council which mediates the case between Raymond Teddy and the media outlets involved. Instead of following the recommendation, Raymond sued the Press Council.

Representing the Indonesian press community, we urge the judges assigned to the case to pay close attention to Press Law no 40/1999. The freedom to seek, receive and impart information is guaranteed by law. In any press-related issues, law enforcers are expected to respect this legislation.

We also would like to express our concern regarding the criminal charges filed against Trans 7 contributor Andi Wilianto Siahaan in Pematang Siantar, North Sumatera. The case stemmed from Andi's quarrel with the head of the Pematang Siantar district during the legislative election on April 2009. When the district head prevented Andi from taking pictures of the counting of votes, Andi told the district head: "You are the head of the district, an alumnus of the Civil Service Academy yet you seem uneducated."

Because of this, Andi was reported to the police and is now on trial for criminal defamation.

We express our concern as well to SCTV contributor Juhry Samanery in Ambon, Moluccas, who is facing charges before the Ambon Resort Police. On 7 May 2010, Ambon State Court personnel had a heated argument with journalists covering a trial there. Journalists disputed the decision of the head of the judges prohibiting them from taking pictures of the trial. Court personnel beat up Juhry. He was then accused of attacking the court personnel and was promptly charged.

These events demonstrate a tendency of some people to abuse the law in order to repress the media. The press should uphold and respect the law, yet at the same time, the law should not be twisted to put the media under pressure.

Jakarta, 17 May 2010

Nezar Patria, President, Alliance of Independent Journalists/Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI) Indonesia
Hendry CH Bangun, Secretary General, Association of Indonesian Journalists/Persatuan Wartawan Indonesia (PWI)
Imam Wahyudi, Head, Indonesian Television Journalists Association/Ikatan Jurnalis Televisi Indonesia (IJTI)

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Related stories on ifex.org
  • Court officers attack journalist

    The incident happened after journalists in Ambon had covered a court session where one photographer was prohibited from taking photos.



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