Protest: The commander of sea security for the Western Region, Commodore Pranyoto (right), talks to reporters in Batam, Riau Islands, on Thursday, during a protest against the recent assault of journalists in Padang, West Sumatra. JP/FadliJournalists in three cities in the archipelago took to the streets on Thursday to protest the assault of their peers by Marines in Padang, West Sumatra.
The protests in Batam, Riau Islands; Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara; and Semarang, Central Java were reportedly launched in solidarity with the seven journalists who were attacked by Marines while covering raids led by the Padang Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) during a prostitution crackdown on Tuesday.
Aside from assaulting the journalists, the Marines also allegedly “confiscated” their cameras, videotapes and memory cards.
In Padang, a journalist criticized Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Adm. Agus Suhartono, who said on Thursday that a peaceful settlement of the “conflict” between journalists and Marine Corps had been reached.
“There hasn’t been any declaration of peace for the violence against journalists. The TNI chief’s remarks are misleading and tend to further confuse the case,” Hendra Makmur, chairman of the Padang chapter of the Indonesian Independent Journalists (AJI), said on Thursday.
According to Hendra, the assault of the journalists constituted a violation of the Press Law and the Criminal Code, neither of which allowed for the “peaceful” settlement of criminal allegations.
“We have to underline here that in the meeting with Lamtamal [Padang Second Naval Fleet Marine Defense Battalion] commander Brig. Gen. Gatot Subroto at the West Sumatra Legislative Council on Wednesday, it was emphasized that the case had to be settled thoroughly,” Hendra said.
“We just met and did not make any peaceful settlement,” he added.
Meanwhile, Rino Zulyadi, the chairman of the West Sumatra office of the Indonesian Television Journalists Association, echoed Hendra’s sentiments, saying that during the meeting, Gatot admitted wrongdoing by his subordinates, expressed regret and promised to take stern action against the perpetrators.
At least 11 Marines implicated in the incident had been detained and await military justice, Gatot said as previously reported.
Rino was critical of Agus. “We ask the TNI chief to abide by the legal process and not to make any misleading statements,” Rino said.
Hendra also said that Agus’ statement was one-sided, irrelevant and could be misinterpreted. “We have taken the matter to the legal process and we will monitor the entire proceedings.”
In Mataram, up to 30 journalists rallied in front of a local naval base, making speeches and placing all of their journalistic equipment in front of the base gate.
“The world of journalism is again mourning after journalists were beaten and their right to report
was curbed. Ironically, the violent acts were carried out by security officers who should have been the protectors of the journalistic activities,” Samiarto, a local journalist, said.
He urged the authorities to thoroughly investigate cases of violence aimed at journalists, mentioning previous unresolved high-profile attacks or murders of reporters.
“We hope the case of violence perpetrated against Udin in Yogya, Prabangsa in Bali and Ridwan Salamun in Maluku will not be repeated in West Nusa Tenggara,” he said.
Bernas daily journalist Fuad Muhammad Syarifuddin, also known as Udin, was murdered in 1996 while reporting on corruption in Yogyakarta. Prabangsa, a reporter with Radar Bali, was reporting on local corruption when his body was found in a river in 2009. Ridwan, a Sun TV reporter, was killed covering ethnic violence in Maluku.
“The case in Padang should be the last for the Indonesian press,” Samiarto added.
A similar request was made by journalists in a rally in Semarang on Thursday who demanded that the Marines allegedly implicated in the assaults be brought to justice, according to kompas.com.
In Batam, 50 journalists rallied outside the local Navy base in solidarity with their colleagues in Padang.
William Sipahatu, one of the journalists, urged the Navy, which oversees the Marine Corps, to be serious about preventing future assaults of journalists.
“We urge the Navy to stop any form of violence. Journalists are not to be beaten up,” he said.
— Fadly contributed reporting from Batam.