Press freedom champion
Mochtar 'only feared for
his Juliet'

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The late writer and journalist Mochtar Lubis was remembered among friends as ""a consistent and persistent fighter for press freedom and corruption eradication in the country"".

""My friend Mochtar Lubis was always on the front line when it came to press freedom,"" poet Taufiq Ismail said in a tribute for Mochtar held at the Taman Ismail Marzuki Art Center, Central Jakarta, on Saturday.

The body of Mochtar, who died on Friday at 82 at the Medistra Hospital, was taken to the Center, before being brought to the Jeruk Purut cemetery in South Jakarta. Wreaths, among others, came from President Megawati Soekarnoputri and the head of the National Intelligence Agency, AM Hendropriyono.

Hundreds of friends and admirers gathered at the cemetery where he was buried next to his wife, Siti Halimah, who died in 2001. Among attendants were other senior journalists and writers such as Rosihan Anwar, Aristiddes Katoppo and Ramadhan KH.

Ramadhan, who once worked at the Indonesia Raya daily, cofounded by Mochtar in 1949, said he last saw Mochtar on Thursday, but by that time he could not recognize even family members. In his last years he had suffered from Alzheimers' and was admitted to Medistra after complaining of breathing difficulties.

""He clutched my hand for a long time, but he didn't recognize me,"" Ramadhan said. Doctors had said he could go home the next day, ""but he told his children, 'I just want to go to mamah',"" he said, referring to his late wife, fondly called Hally.

Ramadhan said he remembers Mochtar as an honest, outspoken man who was not afraid of ""police, the military or the rulers.""

He was only afraid of one thing: ""Of Hally getting sick."" One of Ramadhan's poems was about the couple, which he titled Romeo and Juliet, ""because they were like that ... a rare couple.""

Soy Pardede from the Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU) said Mochtar was different from most of his contemporaries in the fight against corruption ""who easily get compromised.""

Separately, a lecturer on journalism, Warief Djajanto Basorie, described Mochtar's optimistic side.

When banned from writing in jail, ""He drew beautiful drawings. He never stopped. He kept balance with yoga and that brought him optimism, although he was in jail."" Warief also said Mochtar paid much attention to young, bright journalists. ""For him, the relationship between generations are important,"" said Warief.

Mochtar once gave Maria Hartiningsih, a Kompas journalist, a manual typewriter, he said. ""Maria told me that gift touched her so much as it came from the noted journalist.""

Mochtar's son, Iwan Lubis, said in his eulogy to his father that his struggle should be continued by the younger generation.

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