Anti-violence coalition demonstrates

Kompas – June 4, 2003
Press Council chairperson Atmakusumah Asraatmadja (Satu Harapan)
Press Council chairperson Atmakusumah Asraatmadja (Satu Harapan)

Jakarta -- On June 3 a number of press and non-government organisations from the Coalition for Violence Against Journalists (Koalisi Antikekerasan terhadap Wartawan) declared their concern over the repressive situation facing the press and the safety of journalists during the military operation in Aceh.

This position was presented by the chairperson of the Press Council Atmakusumah Asraatmadja, the director of the News Office 68 H Santoso and the director of the South East Asia Press Alliance in Jakarta, Lukas Luwarso.

According to Atmakusumah, the military emergency in Aceh is a test of whether democracy, press freedom and the freedom of expression can function. “Society is also being tested, whether they choose to be narrow minded or respect the values of democracy”, he said.

Atmakusumah rejected the accusation that the Indonesian press has not been nationalistic [enough] in reporting on Aceh. The BBC certainly considers that the Indonesian press has [simply regurgitated] the views of the Indonesian military (TNI).

Atmakusumah explained that there is a need for journalists to uphold journalistic standards and ethics in the coverage of Aceh. The press cannot lie by concealing the facts.

Moreover, the law on a military emergency pre-dates the law on the press or the amendments to the 1945 Constitution which guarantees the right of association and dissemination of information.

Santoso expressed the view that the repressive atmosphere in Aceh has already caused a number of radio stations to decide not to broadcast news because of pressure from the TNI or the Free Aceh Movement.

Lukas Luwarso raised the issue of efforts by the government to control the media which reveil the government or military’s lack of confidence in the operation in Aceh. Lukas hoped therefore that the media will continue to be critical and not be trapped in to just serving up the successes of the military operation, without seeing the impact on the people. (wis)

[Translated by James Balowski.]