The Jakarta Post
In the United States, the symbol of democracy and free press, President Donald Trump and his supporters call the media “the enemy of the people” and denigrate journalists they dislike as “the lying press”. Some of this hostility is replicated in Indonesia, billed as the world’s third-largest democracy, as evident in the controversy over a collaborative investigative report involving a number of publications, journalist associations and civil society groups that aim to keep the country’s anticorruption campaign alive and kicking.
The report, published by the group’s whistleblower platform IndonesiaLeaks, cited a witness in a bribery case involving a meat importer as telling Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigators that she transferred bribes from the importer, her boss, to National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian between March and July 2016. He was then the Jakarta Police chief and later head of the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT).
The National Police have immediately denied the report and so has the campaign team of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and several figures known for their integrity. Human rights activist Hendardi of Setara Foundation implied the IndonesiaLeaks report was a hoax as it lacked solid evidence and was published when police were investigating cases involving politicians and religious leaders, including the spread of fake news that has put Ratna Sarumpaet, a former member of the campaign team for presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, behind bars.
Similarly, other figures do not accept the report as valid journalistic work, although CCTV footage accompanying the report shows two police officers assigned to the KPK ripping pages out of a financial records book related to the case. The book was among the pieces of evidence confiscated in the graft case involving meat importer Basuki Hariman and former Constitutional Court justice Patrialis Akbar, who were respectively sentenced in August and September 2017. The KPK found the two officers guilty of tampering with evidence and sent them back to the National Police as a form of punishment, but instead they received promotions from the police force.
As a partner of the project, we deplore reactions, if not overreactions, to the report, which was released only to warn the nation of the high prevalence of corruption regardless of the tireless crackdown by the KPK on the scores of fraudsters across the country.
More regretful are the denial and hostility that follow the report, rather than commitment to investigation into the high-profile bribery case. The media workers and civil society groups released the report as they expected the police and the KPK to follow up on it in the first place.
While the KPK seems reluctant to once again collide head-on with the police, and as the police will unlikely launch a probe into their own boss, it is fair enough to demand that President Jokowi form an independent team to deal with the case.
Of course Jokowi is incomparable to Trump. But Jokowi’s integrity will be at stake if he sweeps the bribery case under the rug.