Resky Novianto, Adi Ahdiat, Jakarta – Throughout 2019, most of the violence against journalists in Indonesia was committed by police. This was revealed in the Alliance of Independent Journalists’ (AJI) 2019 End of Year Report which was released on Monday December 23.
AJI recorded 53 cases of violence against journalists this year. Out of this total, in 30 cases the violence was committed by police.
AJI Chairperson Abdul Manan said that most of the cases occurred during the demonstrations in front of the General Elections Supervisory Board (Bawaslu) office during the post-election riots in Jakarta on May 20-21 and the wave of student demonstrations on September 23-30.
“If police perpetrate violence against journalists, it means the police are intentionally attempting to silence journalists, because they (journalists) are recording crimes committed (by police)”, explained Manan during a press conference in Jakarta on Monday.
According to Manan, many journalists experience violence and are prevented from doing their work in the field. The police must understand that journalists are protected by law and these cases of violence are a form of press censorship.
“So, not because journalists do something which has no relationship with their work. I think that silencing journalists is very serious, and [unfortunately] is not something new for police”, he continued.
Based on AJI’s data, during the first five years of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration (2015-2019) the number of cases of violence against journalists increased compared with the his predecessor President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (2010-2014).
“We want to send a clear signal to the Pak [Mr] President and the Kapolri [national police chief] that this must be used as an important note in coming years. If this is allowed to continue, it will become a pattern that will continue to be repeated. We know that there are almost no cases of violence involving the police which are prosecuted, right”, said Manan.
Other threats to press freedom
Aside from the problem of violence against journalists, AJI also recorded a number of other problems which threatened press freedom in 2019.
These problems covered laws or draft laws that are prone to being used to criminalise journalists such as the Information and Electronic Transaction Law (UU ITE) and revisions to the Criminal Code (RKUHP), the widespread blocking of the internet during the riots in West Papua, the media’s lack of concern, sensitivity and support for minority groups, and the economic problems suffered by media companies.
“This is like complementing what has become the concern of the press community about the increasing repressiveness of the state (through legislation and actions), along with digital disruptions which cause media companies to try to improve efficiency and sack [media workers]”, said AJI in the report.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “AJI: Polisi Pelaku Utama Kekerasan terhadap Jurnalis Sepanjang 2019”.]