Indonesian Military behind systematic assaults on journalists, says AJI

Iman Dwianto Nugroho

INDONESIA - In a move that has surprised many, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) has named the Indonesian Military (TNI) as press enemy number one this year. The TNI is accused of acting in a way that is contrary to press freedom, and of being behind systematic assaults on their targets, including journalists.

According to AJI data, the TNI should be held responsible for eight out of 30 violent assaults against journalists from January 2012 to August 2013.

"We don't highlight the quantity of the assaults but we still consider the military as extraordinary because, in most cases, they contribute to the systematic nature of the attacks," AJI advocacy head Iman Dwi Nugroho said on Saturday.

Iman then cited as one example the intimidation toward journalists that covered the Cebongan murder trial, which saw 12 Army's Special Forces (Kopassus) personnel as defendants at the Yogyakarta Military Tribunal. It was widely reported that several journalists were summoned by the defendants' military lawyers to a meeting that criticized their media reports. The meeting was to be held in a military facility.

The journalists turned down the invitation but offered the lawyers a chance to air their views in their newspapers but the lawyers refused. When the public was made aware about this, the lawyers' team denied everything.

Iman mentioned another case of brutality against journalists, this time by a member of the Air Force, which took place in October last year in Pekanbaru where five journalists were physically assaulted while covering the crash of an Air Force Hawk 200 jet.

"The investigation has been going on for almost a year but it has not progressed," Iman said.

When asked whether the military's newly appointed leaders, TNI commander Gen. Moeldoko and Army chief of staff Gen. Budiman, who are considered more intellectual than militaristic in approach, could help to improve the situation, Iman acknowledged that he hoped so.

"Let us hope there will be no violent acts carried out by any soldiers under their leadership," he said.

Besides naming the TNI an enemy of the press, the AJI has also presented awards to a number of journalists. The awards were part of the commemoration to mark the AJI's 19th anniversary on Thursday.

Former Metro TV journalist Luviana was given the prestigious Tasrif Award for her outstanding struggle for workers and gender issues. Luviana was also among those who criticized the use of the airwaves to further media owners' political interests.

The AJI also presented three Riau journalists, namely Didik Herwanto of the Riau Pos daily, Fakhri Robianto of Riau TV and Rian FB Anggoro of Antara news agency, with Udin Awards. These journalists were the ones who were beaten by Air Force personnel when covering the fighterjet crash.

Last but not least, the AJI also granted Yulianti Umrah, the founder of the Arek Lintang Surabaya Foundation that provides protection for street children, with an SK Trimurti award.

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