Press groups want release of journalist detained over land dispute article

CNN Indonesia – May 5, 2020
Alliance of Independent Journalists rally in Jakarta – Undated (CNN)

Jakarta – Former chief editor Diananta Putra has been detained at the South Kalimantan regional police (Polda Kalsel) detention centre since Monday May 4. Today, a number of press organisations and civil society groups called on the South Kalimantan police special crimes detective directorate to immediately release Diananta.

The Committee for the Safety of Journalists (KKJ) explained the chronology of the case. Diananta was detained for 20 more days because he wrote an article with is alleged to touch on ethnic, religious, racial and inter-group issues (SARA).

The article that caused the problem was titled Land stolen by Jhonlin, Dayaks complain to South Kalimantan regional police, which was carried by on November 9, 2019. The Jhonlin Group is a conglomerate owned by the Indonesian tycoon Andi Syamsuddin Arsyad.

The person who reported Diananta, named as Sukirman, claimed to be from the Kahiringan Adherents Assembly – which represents the native religion of Kalimantan Dayak tribes. Sukirman reported Diananta because he alleged that the report gave rise to hatred and contained tribal sentiments.

Sukirman reported him to police for violating the Electronic Transaction and Information Law (UU ITE) in November 2019. He also reported the case to the Press Council in the same month.

Although the complaint was still being dealt with by the Press Council, the South Kalimantan regional police continued with the investigation. Investigators summoned Diananta for questioning through summons Number B/SA-2/XI/2019/Ditreskrimsus dated Wednesday November 26, 2019.

Then on February 5 this year, the Press Council ruled that the Kumparan must be held liable for the article, not which is local partner of Kumparan.

The Press Council ruled that the report violated Article 8 of the Journalistic Code of Ethics because it presented a report that contained preconceptions based on tribal differences.

The Council then recommended that Kumparan, through, provide Sukirman with right of reply and an explanation on why the article was removed. The recommendation was signed in a Press Council Evaluation and Recommendation Statement.

“The the press dispute was declared resolved. Kumparan through had already carried a right of reply from the plaintiff and deleted the disputed article”, said KKJ representative Sasmito Madrim in a press release on Tuesday May 5.

But despite being declared resolved by the Press Council, the South Kalimantan regional police continued with the legal process until Diananta was arrested and detained.

The KKJ is urging the police to release Diananta from detention and to revoke his status as a suspect. In addition to this, they are also asking the police to respect the Press Council’s ruling as regulated under Law Number 40/1999 on the Press.

“We are asking the Kapolri [national police chief] to evaluate officials from the South Kalimantan Polda who still followed up on the press dispute as a criminal offence. The Kalsel Polda’s position has the potential to silence press freedom which is one of the pillars of democracy”, he said.

The KKJ is a grouping of several organisations including the Alliance of Independent Journalists (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) and the Indonesian Journalists Association (PWI).

Aside from the KKJ, AJI Balikpapan has also said it deplored Diananta’s detention. AJI Balikpapan Chairperson Devi Alamsyah believes that the South Kalimantan regional police’s attitude proves that law enforcement officials are ignoring the Press Law and the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Press Council and the Indonesian police (Polri).

“He can’t just be detained just like that. The problem is that it has to be cleared first by the Press Council. This violation of the Polri-Press Council MoU is a bad president for the momentum of Press Freedom Day on May 3”, said Alamsyah.

The Information and Electronic Transaction Law Victims Association (Paku ITE) has also raised the issue of Diananta’s detention. On their Twitter social media account @pakuite, the group called on the South Kalimantan regional police to immediately release Diananta.

“There is nothing else that we want to convey except release Diananta from Polda Kalsel’s detention”, they wrote on Twitter. (pmg)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Komite Keselamatan Jurnalis Minta Wartawan Kalsel Dibebaskan”.]