Filed under: Pernyataan Sikap
Subject: Press Release, to be immediately published
The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) on the Ruling of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Indonesia in the Case of Time Magazine Versus Soeharto
The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) strongly condemned a ruling issued by the Supreme Court (MA) of the Republic of Indonesia (RI), which had accepted a lawsuit filed by former President Soeharto over a news report on the fortune of Soeharto’s family in one of TIME Magazine’s editions. In the MA ruling dated August 30, 2007, TIME Magazine is required to publish an apology in national and international media and to pay one trillion rupiah for immaterial losses.
AJI regarded the ruling of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Indonesia as a direct threat of a judicial institution against the freedom of the press and public information in Indonesia. The MA ruling can be used as a precedence to send national mass media, which has case in court, to bankruptcy.
The May 24, 1999 edition of Volume 153 of Number 20 of TIME Magazine published a report on the fortune of former President Soeharto titled “Soeharto Inc.: How Indonesia’s Longtime Boss Built a Family Fortune”. The article was released amidst public demands to trace the assets of Soeharto’s family and the efforts of the reform-era-established government in eradicating Corruption, Collusion and Nepotism (KKN).
The investigative-style article of TIME was later brought to court by former President Soeharto for allegedly damaging his reputation. At the first and second court levels, the Central Jakarta District Court and the Jakarta High Court turned down the lawsuit of former President Soeharto over the article of TIME Magazine.
However, at the top level, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Indonesia as the highest judicial institution in Indonesia defended Soeharto’s lawsuit instead and overturned the rulings of the two lower courts. The MA ruling, which accepted Soeharto’s lawsuit, is very weird and shows the fears of the supreme judges to the big name of former President Soeharto.
Whereas, in the previous case of TEMPO magazine versus Tomy Winata, the Supreme Court showed its class as a judicial institution, which had defended press freedom from thuggery’s attacks. In the case of TIME Magazine, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Indonesia failed to keep its judicial dignity from corrupt and absolute power. Moreover, the MA ruling was made amidst efforts by the Attorney General’s Office of the Republic of Indonesia to trace back former President Soeharto’s alleged corruption.
The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) regarded the ruling by the Supreme Court, which had accepted the lawsuit of former President Soeharto as an unreasonable, inconsistent decision and a threat against efforts by the country’s citizens to defend press freedom and public rights to information. Furthermore, the ruling will spread the seeds of fears among journalists and media circle to operate its control function on the authorities. The MA ruling has also made the image of this republic get worse in the issues of the freedom of press and expression, which eventually will streak the face of democracy that has become a common goal.
By this letter, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) invites all citizens and press to unite and fight against the power threats, which is emerging through the power of the Supreme Court. Apparently, reforms to this high state institution may not be delayed anymore.
Jakarta, September 11, 2007
Coordinator of the Advocacy Division
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