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Indonesian Air Force involved in alleged assault on journalists

This statement was originally published on ifj.org on 5 September 2016.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI - Indonesia) in strongly condemning the alleged attack on three journalists by Indonesian Air Force personnel during the recent Sari Rejo clash in Medan, on the western island of Sumatera, Indonesia. The IFJ and AJI demand police launch a full investigation into the incident on Monday, August 15, 2016, after a residential protest over disputed land turned violent and resulted in the alleged physical assault of the media workers as well as local residents.

The three local journalists were covering the protest by residents from Sari Rejo in Medan over the blocking of access to disputed land by the Indonesian Air Force when violence broke out between residents and Air Force personnel. At least 10 locals were injured in the clash, with reports of some suffering gunshot wounds. Two journalists, Andri Syafrin of MNC TV and Array Agus from Tribun Medan, were identified as being attacked as they covered the clash.

According to Array, air force personnel attacked him and several other journalists with logs, sticks, spears and rifles. He told AJI Medan that, "I was pulled in and hit with a piece of wood, then dragged by the foot. I shouted that I was a journalist and showed my identification, but the personnel said they didn't care." Meanwhile, Syafrin said that his mobile phone, wallet, camera and video camera were all destroyed by Air Force personnel. A third female journalist was also allegedly assaulted and sexually harassed by at least three Air Force personnel during the melee according to the Jakarta Post.

Syafrin told AJI Medan that "I was strangled and beaten with batons and wood. My mobile and camera were seized and destroyed, together with my wallet." Both journalists were hospitalized for treatment following the attack.

On Monday, August 29, the National Human Rights Commission in Indonesia (Komnas HAM), issued its report on the incident and accused Air Force personnel of committing human rights abuses and of violating Indonesian law. The three-day investigation found Air Force personnel had committed assault, torture and destruction of public property, all acts the commission found unconstitutional and in violation of Law No. 34/2004 on the Indonesian Military (TNI) and violated press freedom as stipulated in the 1999 Press Law. The Commission deplored the assaults against the local media and called for those responsible to be processed by the Military Court.

The chairperson of AJI Medan, Agoez Perdana said: "The act of persecution by the Air Force Personnel violates Article 4, Paragraph 1 and 3 and Article 18, Paragraph 1 of the Press Law No. 40 (1999) and such acts face a penalty of two years in prison and a fine of RP 500 million (USD 37,083)."

"AJI explicitly rejects any form of impunity for perpetrators of violence against journalists," he said.

The IFJ said: "We explicitly condemn the brutal attack on the media in Medan. The actions of Indonesian forces against these local journalists, who were attempting to cover a significant story of public interest, constitutes a blatant attack on press freedom in clear violation of Indonesia's Press Law."

"Further to this is the alleged assault and sexual harassment of a female journalist by air force members which demonstrates a deeply concerning equity issue that must be taken to the highest levels of the Air Force ranks. Those responsible must be fully investigated to determine alleged violations of the law and human rights abuses during this incident and penalties and appropriate punishment delivered."

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