Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Adm. Agus Suhartono says he has ordered the Marines who allegedly assaulted journalists during a prostitution crackdown in Padang, West Sumatra, to apologize.
“The Marines did not intentionally commit violence against the journalists. There has been a misunderstanding, particularly given that the family of one of the Marines ran a shop raided by local officers,” Agus told reporters at the Presidential Office on Wednesday.
“It was triggered by a feeling of sympathy that a shop run by one of the Marine’s family members had been damaged,” he added.
The order by the TNI commander was made amid an upward trend in violence directed against journalists in Indonesia.
Agus said he had also ordered the Marines to return the journalists’ cameras, videotapes and memory cards, which were allegedly forcibly seized during the attack.
The Marines chased and assaulted six television journalists as they were covering a raid conducted by the Padang City Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) officers on cafes allegedly offering prostitution services in Bukit Lubuk Begalung district, Padang, at around 5 p.m. local time on Tuesday.
The matter was discussed by Padang 2nd Naval Fleet (Lamtamal) Marine Defense Battalion commander Brig. Gen. Gatot Subroto in a dialog involving more than 100 journalists and mediated by West Sumatra Legislative Council speaker Yulteknil in Padang on Wednesday.
“I deeply regret the incident and will take action against the perpetrators. We are not protecting them and wish to maintain a good relationship with our media colleagues,” Gatot said.
The 11 Marines implicated in the incident were detained at battalion headquarters in Tekuk Bayur where they await military justice, Gatot added.
The Marines were identified as Chief Sgt. Zaenal Mashur; Second Sgt. Saddam Husein; First Cpl. Bainuddin; Chief Privates Alexander and Kusnendi; and First Privates Zulfahmi, Malendra H., Komtung Yan, Dwi Eka Prasatia, Utomo Saputra and Erwanto.
Global TV journalist Budi Sunandar received seven stitches for an ear lacerated in the mayhem. The perpetrators took his videotape and struck local Favorit TV journalist Jamaldi on the face and damaged his camera. The memory card of Padang Ekspres daily photographer Sy Ridwan’s camera was also seized.
Trans TV journalist Julian was also injured and his camera destroyed, while SCTV and Metro TV journalists Andora Khew and Afriandi suffered bruises and their videotapes were seized. Trans TV journalist Deden was beaten and choked.
More than 100 journalists from various media organizations in Padang staged outside the West Sumatra Legislative Council building in Padang on Wednesday, including representatives of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), the Indonesian Journalists Association (PWI) and the Indonesian Television Journalists Association (IJTI), demanding transparency in the legal proceedings against the perpetrators.
Separately, dozens of journalists rallied on Wednesday at Taman Makam Pahlawan Taruna circle in Tangerang City, Banten, in protest the assault of the journalists in Padang.
The journalists, grouped under the Tangerang Journalists Working Group, demanded that the TNI commander impose stern sanctions on the perpetrators.
“We, Tangerang-based journalists, condemn any form of violence against journalists and demand an immediate investigation of the assaults,” Aimar Rani, a contributor to the MNC group, said.
Meanwhile, in Batam, Riau Islands, the Batam District Military Command is currently disciplining a soldier who allegedly confiscated the camera of a Batam TV journalist who was filming long lines at a local gas station on May 28.
The Army said that the soldier was not involved in fuel hoarding that has lead to fuel shortages in the area.
The commander of the local military district, Lt. Col. Ahmad Rizal, visited the Batam office of Kompas daily on Tuesday evening to clarify the incident.
“I express my deepest apology to my media colleagues over the incident. The concerned soldier has been reprimanded. It’s true that he is a member of Army,” Rizal said, declining to disclose the soldier’s name or unit.
Rizal added that the soldier might have felt cornered when four journalists were filming the line outside the Paradise gas station in Batu Aji, Batam, on May 28.
As the journalists were photographing and taping the line, a military vehicle appeared and disgorged several men in TNI uniforms. The men shouted at the journalists and seized the camera of Batam TV journalist Bagong Sastranegara.
Violence against journalists
April 10, 2012
Unidentified police officers beat several journalists as they attempted to cover the evacuation of 120 illegal immigrants at Indah Kita Port in Banten.
April 13, 2012
Tuti Alawiyah (SCTV), Bahana Situmorang (TVOne), Ayat Sudrajat Hasibuan (Trans TV) and Yudhistira (Beritasatu) were beaten by soldiers on security duty during a visit of Vice President Boediono to Medan, North Sumatra.
May 29, 2012
Two journalists were beaten by a group of people at a gas station in Morowali, Central Sulawesi. The journalists were identified as Reni Sri Ayu of Kompas daily and Mohtar Mahyuddin of Mercusuar Palu daily.
From various sources Kris
—Fadli and Multa Fidrus contributed reporting from Batam and Tangerang.