Navy officers abduct and torture Maluku journalist over critical news report

Tribun News – April 2, 2024
Sukandi Ali showing injuries to his back after the abduction and assault – April 1, 2024 (Int)

Satia, Medan – An online journalist, Sukandi Ali, suffered serious injuries after being abducted from his home and assaulted by three Indonesian Navy (TNI AL) officers in North Maluku.

The Committee for the Safety of Journalists (KKJ) has condemned the abuse committed by the rogue Navy members and emphasised that the arbitrary actions were carried out without a warrant like the crimes committed during the era of the repressive New Order regime of former president Suharto.

KKJ also condemned the incident for injuring press independence. The KKJ said was an illegal act that is subject to criminal charges under Article 354 of the Criminal Code (KUHP) and Article 18 Paragraph 1 of Law Number 40/1999 on the Press (UU Pers).

"[We] urge the Navy Chief of Staff (KSAL) to dismiss the perpetrators from the TNI AL and the perpetrators must be tried in court in accordance with prevailing legal provisions", the KKJ said in an official statement received on Monday April 1.

"Fourth, we appeal to the public and all stakeholders, if you feel harmed by a news report, please resolve it through the mechanisms that are regulated by the UU Pers. Namely, exercising the right of responsibility or correction or if you feel that it is not enough you can submit a complaint with the Press Council as a press dispute", continued the statement.

KKJ said that the alleged incident occurred in the second floor of the Panamboang Navy post building in South Bacan district, South Halmahera on Thursday March 28.

The KKJ said that they have obtained and verified a chronology of the incident from the information provided by Ali.

The incident began when the victim was picked up by two of the suspected perpetrators at his home. The two perpetrators were accompanied by the Babang Village Babinsa – a non-commissioned military officer posted in villages and wards – who was asked to take the perpetrators the victim's home address.

Together with the two Navy members Ali was taken by car to the Navy post at the Panamboang fishing port. Upon arriving at the post, Ali was then interrogated about a news report he had written.

During the interrogation, Ali was punched, kicked and whipped using a hose. The assault resulted in Ali suffering injuries and bruises all over his body, head, hands and shoulders and his teeth were broken due to the torture.

In addition to this, Ali was also threatened by having a pistol pointed at him after being intimidated by a warning shot fired in the air.

The KKJ also found information that the perpetrators threatened the victim with the sentence, "If it's only a confirmation, don't publish the news. Unless you initially ask for an interview, only then can you publish the news".

After being abused, the victim was asked to make a written statement, containing two points, namely that the victim would not repeat the same act and that they were not allowed to pass through the coastal area from Labuha to Kupal. The second point was the victim must stop working as a journalist and not write anymore news reports.

The perpetrators, according to KKJ, also accused the victim of writing a news report without prior confirmation and clarification from the Indonesian Navy. Yet the victim claims he had sought confirmation and had an audio recording of an interview with one of the three Navy officers.

The news report referred to, which was titled Tens of Thousands of Kilo Liters of Fuel Allegedly Belonging to the North Maluku Regional Air and Water Police Directorate Detained by Navy in South Halmahera, Head of Ternate II Port Authority and Administration Office Allegedly Involved, was published by on March 26.

KKJ also found that prior to this Ali had received information about the seizure of a Dexlite type fuel vessel, allegedly belonging to the North Maluku Regional Police's Water and Air Police Directorate (Ditpolairud) in the waters off East Bacan, South Halmahera. Based on this information, Ali then interviewed one of the three Navy members.

The KKJ was declared in Jakarta on April 5, 2019 and is made up of 11 press and civil society organisation, namely the Independent Journalists Alliance (AJI), the Legal Aid Institute for the Press (LBH Pers), the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet), the Indonesian Television Journalists Association (IJTI), the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), the Indonesian Cyber Media Association (AMSI), the Independent Media Trade Union Federation (FSPMI), Amnesty International Indonesia, the Media and Creative Industries Trade Union for Democracy (SINDIKASI), the Indonesian Journalists Association (PWI) and the Indonesian Photo Reporters (PFI).

[Translated by James Balowski. Abridged slightly due to repetition. The original title of the article was "Wartawan di Maluku Diduga Diculik dan Dianiaya 3 Oknum TNI AL, KKJ Desak Pelaku Ditindak Tegas".]