The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Indonesia has written to the Kupang municipality police in East Nusa Tenggara province to express concern over an investigation into the “Harian Kursor” newspaper for alleged defamation and maltreatment of a broadcast correspondent.
“Harian Kursor” was alleged to have breached articles 311 and 355 of the Criminal Code in its report on the arrest of Harry Harzufri, the Kupang-based correspondent of private broadcaster Radio Citra Televisi Indonesia (RCTI), for suspected drug abuse. Harzufri was later released upon evidence to the contrary.
Article 311 allows for a prison term of four years on anyone who commits defamation, while article 355 allows for a maximum prison term of 12 years – 15 years if death is a result – on those who commit premeditated maltreatment.
In defence of “Harian Kursor”, AJI wrote to the police commander of the Kupang municipality, AKBP Ekotrio Budhinar, saying it found no indication of any crime committed by newspaper.
In a 19 February 2007 letter, AJI said the “Harian Kursor” editor quoted AKP Albert Neno, an officer in charge of narcotics and dangerous substances cases, as an official source for reliable information about Harzufri. AJI said although Harzufri was subsequently found not to have been using illegal drugs, it did not mean that “Harian Kursor” was wrong and had to be prosecuted.
AJI also voiced concern at a summons issued by the Kupang municipality police to Imanuel Lodja, a “Harian Kursor” journalist, as a witness to the case.
“We would like to point out that, in the interest of the profession’s honor and the protection of news sources, journalists have the right to refuse to be called as witnesses before the courts,” said AJI.
AJI stressed that since 1999, the press have already had its own law, Law No 40. (1999), the main objective of which is to abolish criminalization of the press over disputes involving them.
“The main essence of the press law is the implementation of the right of reply for any party who disagrees with any press publication,” said AJI.
The media rights organisation appealed to the Kupang municipal police to bow to the authority of the Press Council, which is the highest press institution, in line with article 15 of Law No. 40, before proceeding with the probe on “Harian Kursor”.
“The police are supposed to encourage those who feel they have been injured by press reports to activate their right of reply and to maximize the role of the press council as a mediator. A careless implementation of the Criminal Code could affect freedom of the press and of the public to obtain information, as guaranteed by article 28f of the Constitution,” said AJI.