Anti-Ahok crowd directs anger toward media, journalists
Nurul Fitri Ramadhani and Ivany Atina Arbi
The Jakarta Post
After initially proceeding peacefully, the massive street protest on Saturday organized by Muslim groups demanding the imprisonment of incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama ended in violence directed against members of the media.
The protesters, many of whom were from cities outside of Jakarta, started to gather on Friday night at the grounds of Istiqlal Mosque in Central Jakarta.
These protesters formed the core part of the rally and braved the rainfall and inundation in some areas around the mosque to stage the protest.
The size of the crowd swelled after candidates running in the Jakarta gubernatorial election, including Anies Baswedan and his running mate Sandiaga Uno, nominated by the Gerindra Party and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), and Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, nominated by the Democratic Party, joined the protesters for the Fajr early morning prayer.
The candidates left the mosque at around 8 a.m. to spend their last day on the campaign trail.
Following the departure of the candidates, the protesters began to move away from Istiqlal and occupy the streets around the mosque. Leaders of Muslim organizations, including the leader of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), Rizieq Shihab, started to deliver their speeches.
Despite warnings from the Jakarta Police and the General Elections Commission that members of the public should refrain from participating in rallies that carried election-related messages, many speakers urged the protesters in the rally and Muslims in general to deliver a defeat to incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja “Ahok” Purnama.
Some of the leaders from the FPI, the Muslim People’s Forum and the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council’s Fatwa (GNPF-MUI), called on the protesters not to vote for Ahok on election day because Ahok was not a Muslim.
One of the speakers also called on the rally’s participants to wage a “war” on social media, while another cleric demanded that protesters swear by the name of God that they would not vote for Ahok.
Despite the harsh rhetoric, some of the participants in the rally showed civility, especially when a Christian couple, intending to take their wedding vows at Jakarta Cathedral, which is located directly across from Istiqlal Mosque, had some difficulty making their way into the cathedral.
Many in the crowd voluntarily stepped aside and gave way for the couple’s entourage. According to a number of media outlets, some of the protesters even gave their umbrellas to the couple when the rain started.
The protesters directed their anger toward the media, which they argued had given positive coverage to Ahok.
Journalists and technical crews from the private news channels Metro TV and Global TV reported that they were harassed by some protesters.
Senior Metro TV journalist Desi Fitriani filed a police report on Saturday after she was hit in the head by unidentified protesters with a bamboo pole. She suffered an injury to the head.
Fellow Metro TV journalist Ucha Fernandes also filed a report after being struck in the abdomen, neck and legs.
Antara news agency reported that the alleged assault happened when Desi and Ucha were trying to get inside Istiqlal Mosque to get footage for their live broadcast. They were allegedly chased out by a mob who tried to escort them out of the grounds of the mosque.
Responding to the incident, the Indonesian Television Journalists Association (IJTI) issued a statement condemning the alleged assault.
“The IJTI and the Press Council’s anti-violence task force will look into this case,” the group said.
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