Once again freedom of the press in Indonesia was marred as journalists were assaulted and threatened while reporting at the rally that turned into a riot around the Election Monitoring Agency (Bawaslu) building on Wednesday, 22 May.
As verified by the team from Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Jakarta, at least seven journalists have been assaulted, intimidated, and persecuted from the early hours till later in the morning on Wednesday.
The journalists are Budi Tanjung (CNN Indonesia TV journalist), Ryan (CNNIndonesia.com), Ryan (MNC Media journalist), Fajar (Radio Sindo Trijaya journalist), Fadli Mubarok (Alinea.id journalist), as well a reporter and cameraperson from RTV.
It is possible that more journalists were subjected to violent treatment. AJI Jakarta is still in the process of gathering data and verifying information on the assaulted journalists.
The incident happened as journalists were covering the situation around the Bawaslu Building. They were forbidden by the police from recording the arrest of individuals suspected of provoking the masses.
Budi Tanjung, of CNN TV Indonesia, was hit on the head and the video he recorded on his mobile phone was erased by members of the Police Mobile Brigade in front of the Gereja Kristen Indonesia church on Jl. Wahid Hasyim, Central Jakarta, early on Wednesday morning.
Another incident was reported by Ryan, a CNNIndonesia.com journalist who was reporting from Jl. Jatibaru, Central Jakarta. He was recording a video of the police capture of suspected provocateurs. The police confiscated his mobile phone and asked him to erase the video.
Ryan was hit on the face, neck, upper right hand, and shoulders by members of the Mobile Brigade and people in civilian uniforms. They also used sticks to beat him.
The police had continued the assault even though Budi and Ryan had identified themselves as journalists and showed their press cards for proof.
The journalists were also assaulted by protesters. They persecuted the journalists and seized their equipment including their camera, mobile phone, and recorder. The protesters forced the journalists to delete all photo and video documentation. Some journalists reported that they had also been beaten by the protesters.
AJI Jakarta and the Press Legal Aid Institute (LBH Pers) strongly condemn the assault on the journalists as well as attempts to impede them in their work by both the police and protesters.
The intimidation on journalists reporting on a riot may be construed as censorship on journalism. It is a criminal offense as specified in Paragraph 18 of Law No. 40 of 1999 on the Press, which stipulates that anyone who obstructs freedom of the press is punishable by no more than two years’ imprisonment and no more than Rp500 million in fines.
We urge the security forces and the public to respect and support the climate of freedom of the press, and to refrain from intimidating and impeding journalists who are on field duty.
We also appeal to the heads of media organizations to take responsibility and to prioritize the safety of their journalists. No news is worth the loss of life.
Regarding this incident AJI Jakarta and LBH Pers issue the following statement:
1. We urge the security forces to fully investigate the violence and intimidation against journalists by the police and members of the public.
2. We appeal to the heads of media organizations to take responsibility over the safety of journalists on field duty.
3. We appeal to journalists covering the mass protests to put safety first by staying at a safe distance during a riot.
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Source: MEDIA FEED