Call for investigation into violence against journalists during Aceh conflict

Aceh Kita – July 12, 2007
RCTI television reporter Ersa Siregar (Aktual)
RCTI television reporter Ersa Siregar (Aktual)

Banda Aceh – The case of RCTI television reporter Ersa Siregar, who died during a fire fight between TNI (Indonesian military) soldiers and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) during the period of martial law in Aceh has been reported to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour.

The Banda Aceh Independent Journalist Alliance (AJI) asked Arbour to pressure the Indonesian government to immediately investigate Siregar’s death which occurred while he was being held hostage by GAM. In addition to the Siregar case, AJI also report the death of TVRI Banda Aceh camera operator Muhammad Jamaluddin.

“In January 2004, the National Human Rights Commission formed an independent team to investigate cases of violence against journalists in Aceh. But the results of this are still not known” said AJI secretary Maimun Saleh during a press conference following a meeting with Arbour at the UN representative offices n Aceh on Thursday afternoon.

AJI and 11 other local non-government organisations held a 45-minute meeting with Arbour at the UN offices. During the brief meeting AJI also handed over a report on violence and coercion against journalists in Aceh.

According to Saleh, the declaration martial law and a state of civil emergency in Aceh [between May 2003 and April 2005 – JB] represented the peek of restrictions against the press. A concrete forms of these restrictions was Executive Order Number 5/2003 issued by the Regional Martial Law Administrator (PDMD), which prohibited journalists and the media in Aceh from using GAM as a source of information.

Following this, journalists that were given permission to cover the Aceh war had to have a special press card, the Red and White Press Card that was issued by the PDMD. This policy of restricting the press was continued by the Regional Civil Emergency Administration (PDSD) with the issuance of Executive Order Number 4/2004 that regulated procedures for covering the conflict.

“The media was also asked to broadcast ‘advertisements’ of the achievements of the PDSD in fighting GAM. This order was issued on September 1, 2004”, said Saleh.

In addition to reporting the press situation during the Aceh war, AJI also reported on the press situation since the peace agreement, which it said, had begun to improve. “At least there are indicators that show that there is no violence against journalists and civil activists holding demonstrations”, he said. [dzie]