Aliansi Jurnalis Independen

INDONESIA: Over twenty journalists beaten covering election campaign
June 3, 1997, 10:03 am
Filed under: Laporan

Pacific Media Watch

Title — P09 INDONESIA: Media harassed during election
Date — 3 June 1997
Origin — IFEX
Source — Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information (ISAI), Jakarta
Status — Unabridged

INDONESIA: Over twenty journalists beaten covering election campaign

(ISAI/IFEX) – The only independent union of Indonesian journalists reported that more than 20 journalists were beaten, harassed and had their films seized while covering the Indonesian election campaign which ended with the 29 May elections (see details below). On 28 May, representatives of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) reported to the Indonesian Commission on Human Rights that violence had once again caused difficulties for the media covering the elections. AJI Secretary General Satrio Arismunandar deplored the violence, saying that both military officers and pro-government militia were the ones who were mostly involved in the violence. “I believe we have to create a situation in which journalists can do their jobs freely…so that we can be good observers for the election,” said Arismunandar.

AJI estimates that the violence against journalists was worse than what is reflected in the data it was able to collect (see details below). AJI added that plainclothes officials followed some Western journalists covering the Banjarmasin riot. (Between 123 and 146 rioters were killed in shopping malls which were burned down in Banjarmasin in southern Kalimantan on 23 May, the last day of the campaign.) The journalists were prevented from interviewing family members of the fire victims. Other foreign journalists were denied visas to cover the election. Most of the incidents were reported from big cities like Jakarta and Surabaya. Problems in smaller towns and remote islands are estimated to be more serious.

Details of the report:

27 April 1997: Sugeng Sutrisno, 26, a journalist with the Surabaya-based “Surya” newspaper, was beaten by Golkar supporters while covering a campaign rally in Wonogiri in Central Java province. He failed to respond to the Golkar “V” finger signal. A number of Golkar militants thought that he was not a Golkar supporter and immediately beat him. They used a metal bar to break his motorcycle helmet to pieces. His motorcycle was also damaged. Surabaya is the second biggest city in Indonesia in eastern Java, around 800 kilometres east of Jakarta.

9 May: Y. Suprayogi, a journalist with the newspaper “Republika”, was blackmailed by nine party militants in southern Jakarta. They alleged that Suprayogi was involved in a fight with one of their friends. He was “questioned” for about two hours before they took his watch, wallet, credit card, press card and employee card.

15 May: Ali Reza, a photographer with the Jakarta-based “AKSI” tabloid, was kicked in the stomach by a plainclothes official while covering a chaotic Golkar campaign event in the Warung Buncit area in southern Jakarta. He insisted on continuing to take pictures of a campaigner who was beaten by some police officers and plainclothes intelligence agents. The officer later tried to seize Reza’s film, but he resisted. (Southern Jakarta is a stronghold of the opposition United Development Party, or PPP. The PPP won the election there with a narrow margin over the military- backed Golkar.)

15 May: Achmad Fauzi, a freelance photographer for the Jakarta- based “Media Indonesia Minggu” newspaper, was taking photos of a stone-throwing fight between Golkar and PPP supporters in the Ciputat area in southern Jakarta, when he himself got hit in the head and body by some stones. He was injured in the head and his camera was broken.

18 May: Sony Soemarsono, a photographer with the Jakarta-based daily “Republika, was trapped in a brutal fight between thousands of Golkar and PPP supporters in the Warung Buncit area in southern Jakarta. He was taking photos from a pedestrian bridge when some people asked him to step down. He was still trying to take photos of PPP supporters who were burning a Golkar banner when some of them suddenly hit his head from behind. He tried to run away but was caught and beaten.

20 May: Robinsar VDN, alias Opak, freelance photographer for the Jakarta-based “Sinar” weekly magazine, was beaten in the stomach and face by plainclothes officers while covering a PPP rally in the Kampung Melayu area of eastern Jakarta. Some other journalists stopped the beating. The officers later said it was a misunderstanding, adding that Opak’s face is similar the face of the officially-unrecognized left-leaning People’s Democratic Party (PRD).

Awaluddin (surname not known), a freelance photographer for the Jakarta-based “SWA” business magazine, was with Opak when Opak was attacked by the plainclothes officers. In a bid to stop the beating, Awaluddin was beaten as well. A plainclothes officer even aimed a pistol at his back. The officers forced Awaluddin to get into an awaiting minibus and questioned him for three hours at the East Jakarta military command office. He took out his press card, but the officers did not believe him and accused him of being a “PRD journalist.” He was released quite bruised after other apparently higher ranking officers intervened.

20 May: The Indonesian Ministry of Information banned the PPP- owned “Buletin Suara Bintang”. The semi-professional bulletin was initially published by the PPP chapter in Wonogiri in Central Java as of 27 April, when the election campaign began. The ministry said the bulletin was illegal because it had no publishing license, usually issued by the ministry. The bulletin publisher, Anding Sukiman, a former journalist with the Yogyakarta-based “Masa Kini” newspaper, is also under police investigation. He alleged that he was discriminated against, because a Golkar-owned bulletin is allowed to publish despite lacking the license.

21 May: Two Indonesian journalists with the “D&R” magazine and the Antara news service lost their tape recorder and camera while covering a Golkar campaign event in Bandung, after being forced off the campaign stage by some Golkar security guards. They reasoned that non-Golkar journalists were not given the privilege to go up on stage.

22 May: Ahmad Taufik, 32, a former journalist with the banned “Tempo” magazine, said from his prison cell in Kuningan in West Java that he was denied his right to vote. Prison officials said prisoners who were jailed for defaming President Suharto had no right to vote. Taufik was the AJI President when he was arrested in March 1995 and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for publishing articles that defamed Suharto (see IFEX alerts).

22 May: Yurnaldi (only one word), a journalist with “Kompas” newspaper, was beaten in front of Golkar supporters when he passed in front of Golkar campaigner Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana, the eldest daughter of President Suharto, who was delivering a speech at the time. A police major was angered by his “impolite behaviour” and dragged him off stage. Three other officers beat him, seized his notes and kicked him into a sewer.

22 May: A number of Jakarta editors said they received telephone calls from the military office asking them not to run a statement issued by Megawati Sukarnoputri earlier that day. Megawati’s statement indicated that she would not vote. Although voting is not required in Indonesia, scores of students and dissidents were jailed for calling on the public to boycott the election.

23 May: Musyawir (only one name), 42, a journalist with the daily “Surabaya Post”, had his jaw broken when rioters attacked him in Bangil, a small town in East Java. His head was bleeding after one of the rioters hit him with a wooden bat. He also lost his wallet, a camera lens, his driver’s license, press card, identification card and money.

Johar Mahmudi, a journalist with the Surabaya-based “Jawa Pos” daily, had his film seized by rioters in Bangil.

Tri Yulianto, journalist of the Surabaya-based “Surya” daily, was threatened with sharp weapons; he was threatened with death if he published the photos that he took during the rally. He was hit in the back with a wooden bat.

Prihandoyo, Insan Kamil and Hartono, respectively cameraman, reporter and driver of the Surabaya-based SCTV, escaped PPP supporters who threatened to kill them over SCTV’s allegedly imbalanced election coverage. They managed to hide in a house.

Sarni Ocampo and Patrick de Noirmont, Reuters cameraman and photographer respectively, lost their video and film while covering a clash between PPP supporters and police in the Ciputat area in southern Jakarta. Plainclothes officers seized their films and tapes, including new ones. An Indosiar cameraman who was covering the event with them said that three other cameramen also had their videos seized.

Phanumas Genkitpattana, a cameraman with Bangkok-based Independent Television (ITV), were prevented from covering the riot in Ciputat. A plainclothes official warned Genkitpattana’s team not to film the clash.


President Suharto’s Golkar ruling party won the election over the opposition United Development Party (PPP) and Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI). They respectively got 74, 23 and three percent of the total votes. Around 15 percent of nearly 125 eligible voters did not vote. Observers predicted that the boycotters were mostly supporters of ousted PDI chairperson Megawati Sukarnoputri, who lost her leadership of the party in a government-sponsored rival congress last year (see IFEX alerts). Megawati, the eldest daughter of Indonesia’s founding President, Sukarno, announced one week before the election that she was not going to vote. Her supporters soon announced that they were going to follow her lead. Observers said more than 320 people were killed during the election campaign — a toll which includes the 123 to 146 killed during the Banjarmasin riot.

For further information, contact Andreas Harsono at ISAI, Jl. Utan Kayu 68-H, Jakarta 13120, Indonesia, tel:+62 21 856 9281, fax:+62 21 856 7529, e-mail:

The information contained in this alert is the sole responsibility of ISAI and AJI. In citing this material for broadcast or publication, please credit ISAI and AJI. _________________________________________________________________


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