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Journalists assaulted by Indonesian Air Force officers

(AJI/IFEX) - Jakarta, 16 October 2012 - The Alliance of Independent Journalists seriously condemns a violent act by military officers who assaulted and seized a video camera from an on-duty journalist. The incident occurred on Tuesday, 16 October 2012, in Pasir Putih, Pandau, Pekanbaru, Riau.

A journalist from the Indonesian TV station, tvOne, was beaten while his camera was confiscated. Journalists Didik and Rian, photographers for Riau Pos and Antara Newswire respectively, were similarly targeted. After being beaten, their cameras were taken away as they were attempting to gather video footage of a crashed Indonesian jet fighter Hawk 200.

The case was a violation of the Law on Press No. 40/1999 Article 4 Section (2) which prohibits censorship, the revocation of publication permits, and broadcasting breaches against the national press. The infringement of this article is punishable with up to two years in prison or a fine of Rp500 million (approx. US$52,180) as noted in Article 18 Section (1).

This is the latest incident in a series of violent acts against journalists in Indonesia. Previously, some journalists were victimised while reporting on a crashed Indonesian military aircraft in Halim Perdana Kusumah, Jakarta, whereas some journalists in Padang were violently targeted. These recurrent acts of violence against journalists are a result of a lack of awareness about importance of journalists' duty. According to AJI Indonesia, the offensive behavior exhibited by the Indonesian Air Force officer was part of a disproportionate security measure. All details connected to Indonesia's weaponry system are deemed secret while at the same time, the public has the right to access this kind of information.

AJI Indonesia urged the Indonesian Military Commander and the Air Force Chief of Staff to punish the perpetrators of the assault.

Further, AJI Indonesia urged that the perpetrators be brought before the court in accordance with Law No 40/1999 on the Press in order to reinforce to the public that journalism is a profession protected by law.

What other IFEX members are saying:

Air Force tries to impose news blackout on fighter jet crash
(Reporters Without Borders)

An Armed Forces chief Admiral defended the use of violence on "public safety" grounds, explaining that onlookers at the crash site had to be kept at a distance because the fighter may have had bombs that "could have exploded at any moment".

"Nothing can justify the use of such violence against journalists acting in the public interest," Reporters Without Borders responded. The six reporters in total who were beaten "were trying to inform the public about a tragic incident, which the air force, was clearly trying to cover up."

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