The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply concerned about your
government's failure to prosecute those responsible for last month's attack
on Tempo magazine. Moreover, we are disturbed that two of the journalists
injured in the attack are now themselves in danger of arrest under Indonesia's
criminal libel laws.
On March 7, Tempo magazine received a letter from the lawyer of
businessman Tomy Winata threatening libel action over an article published
in the magazine's March 3 edition. The article, written by reporter Ahmad
Taufik, cited allegations that Winata stood to profit from a February
fire that had destroyed the Tanah Abang textile market in the capital,
Jakarta, and may be responsible for the blaze. The article also included
a statement from Winata denying that allegation.
On March 8, a group of more than 100 men gathered in front of the Tempo
offices in Jakarta to protest the article. After Taufik went outside to
address the protesters, they pulled him into the crowd and assaulted him,
according to Taufik. With the help of a police officer, the journalist
invited several protesters into the offices to discuss the issue with
other Tempo staff members. Once inside, the protesters continued
verbally and physically abusing the journalists. Reporter Abdul Manan
was injured when a protester threw a wooden box at him.
Several Tempo employees and protesters subsequently went to the
police station to negotiate peacefully. While waiting at the station,
editor Bambang Harymurti and reporter Karaniya Dharmasaputra were hit
by the protesters. The two were beaten in the presence of police officers,
who did not intervene in the attack, according to witnesses.
Following the meeting at the police station, both sides signed an agreement
that the matter would be resolved through legal channels. In the agreement,
one of the protesters, a man named David, "explicitly admitted that he
was representing Tomy Winata," according to Taufik.
On March 27, police summoned editor Harymurti for questioning
after Tomy Winata registered criminal complaints against Tempo
magazine. Authorities charged Harymurti with libel and defamation
under Articles 310 and 311 of the Criminal Code, which carry a maximum
penalty of four years in prison. He is also charged with violating Article
5(1) of the Press Law, which requires the media to respect religious and
moral norms and carries a maximum fine of 500 million rupiah (US$56,000).
The same three charges were later filed against Ahmad Taufik. On April
5, police questioned Taufik for 11 hours about the case. Four other journalists
from Tempo have also been questioned in the case.
Bambang Harymurti and Ahmad Taufik stand by the accuracy of the Tempo
story and refuse to issue an apology to Tomy Winata or divulge their sources,
as Winata's supporters have demanded.
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to defending our
colleagues worldwide, CPJ condemns the physical intimidation and violence
against Tempo staff in reprisal for their reporting. Although five
protesters have been charged for the attack on the Tempo offices
and the assault on the journalists, only one of these men has been arrested.
CPJ calls for a swift and thorough investigation into the incident and
for all those responsible to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the
Furthermore, CPJ is gravely concerned that criminal charges have been
filed against Bambang Harymurti and Ahmad Taufik for their reporting.
CPJ believes that no journalist should be criminally prosecuted for the
content of his or her work. The complaint against Tempo magazine
should be handled as a civil matter, and not as a criminal case.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We await your response.