Press freedom fighter,
writer Mochtar Lubis passes

A. Junaidi, Jakarta

The nation mourned as noted writer-journalist Mochtar Lubis passed away on Friday at the Medistra Hospital in Jakarta due to lung disease.

Born on March 7, 1922, in Padang, West Sumatra, Mochtar was a celebrated novelist and respected journalist who co-founded the Indonesia Raya daily in 1949.

""Mochtar was a giant in Indonesian journalism. I will always remember him if I think about press freedom,"" the daily's former managing editor Atmakusumah Astraadmadja told The Jakarta Post.

Mochtar was jailed for nine years by the regime of first president Sukarno from 1957 to 1966 due to his critical writing as the daily's chief editor.

He was jailed in Madiun, East Java, along with other nationalist figures, including Sjahrir, Mohammad Roem and Soebadio Sastrosatomo, who were critical of Sukarno.

The regime backed by the military then led by Gen. AH Nasution banned the daily six times after 1957.

The daily's reports that caused the government's anger included the affair of Sukarno with Hartini, whom he eventually married. The reports led to his earlier wife, Fatmawati, leaving the presidential palace.

The daily also reported a case of suspected bribery involving former prime minister Roeslan Abdulgani and some businessmen.

Under the New Order, president Soeharto permitted Indonesia Raya to resume publication in 1968 but banned it in 1974 following the daily's report on corruption in state oil and gas company Pertamina.

""After that, we decided not publish the daily again. But Mochtar always spoke out about press freedom. I will miss him,"" Atmakusumah said.

He said Mochtar could not be separated from Indonesia Raya, like BM Diah with Merdeka daily, Rosihan Anwar with Pedoman and Suardi Tasrif with Abadi.

Mochtar joined Antara state news agency as a journalist in 1945 and cofounded the Horison literary magazine. He received the Ramon Magsasay Award from the Philippines for his work in journalism and literature in 1974.

He has written several novels, including his most popular Harimau, Harimau! (Tiger, tiger!), Senja di Jakarta (An evening in Jakarta) and Jalan Tak Ada Ujung (Endless Road).

He also chaired the Obor Indonesia Foundation which published quality books on literature, philosophy, the environment and the social sciences.

Mochtar's wife Halimah died at the age of 77 on Aug. 27, 2001. His funeral is planned for Saturday afternoon at the Jeruk Purut cemetery in South Jakarta, family members said.

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