The Jakarta Post
The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Denpasar chapter criticized President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s decision to grant remission to I Nyoman Susrama, the mastermind behind the murder of journalist Anak Agung Bagus Narendra Prabangsa, saying it was a “step back” in efforts to sustain press freedom.
Jokowi changed Susrama’s sentence from a life sentence to 20 years of imprisonment. The President also granted remission to other 114 prisoners across Indonesia.
“It is a step back [in efforts to enforce] press freedom,” AJI Denpasar chairman Nandhang R. Astika said.
Nandhang said the life sentence for Susrama was a breakthrough, noting that it was the first case of violence against a journalist in Indonesia that was successfully uncovered.
“The life sentence for Susrama was a breath of fresh air for press freedom and attempts to address all cases of violence against journalists across Indonesia,” Nandhang said, adding that the commutation of Susrama’s sentence was counterproductive.
“AJI Denpasar regrets the commutation. We demand that the President annul the remission,” he said.
I Nyoman Susrama was sentenced to life after judges found him guilty for masterminding the murder of, Anak Agung Bagus Narendra Prabangsa, a journalist with the Radar Bali daily, in February 2009. Prabangsa was killed in his house in Bangli, Bali, and his body was thrown into the sea. His body was found floating in waters west of Padangbai Harbor. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Prabangsa had received threatening calls and text messages for two weeks before he disappeared.
The verdict for Susrama was lighter than the death sentence demanded by prosecutors. Susrama was charged with violating Article 340 of the Criminal Code on premeditated murder.
Susrama, who is the younger brother of then-Bangli regent I Nengah Arnawa, is currently serving his sentence in Bangli prison.
Bangli prison chief I Made Suwendra confirmed that Susrama had been granted remission. “Yes, it is true. It is a remission from the President. We received the letter a week ago,” Suwendra said.
Suwendra said Susrama’s life sentence had been reduced to 20 years of imprisonment, meaning he would have the right to get remission on Independence Day and religious holidays.
According to Suwendra, Susrama has applied for remission a few times since.
“He submitted the last application in 2017,” he said.
Suwendra acknowledged that the prison had assisted Susrama in the application process. He admitted that the prison had recommended him to get the commutation due to his good conduct in prison.
Jokowi granted 115 murder convicts remission through Presidential Decree No. 29/2018 signed Dec. 7, 2018.
The CPJ has recorded 10 killings of Indonesian journalists on duty between 1992 and 2019. Eight of them were murdered, one died in a crossfire, and another one died on a dangerous assignment. Among the murdered journalists were Anak Agung Prabangsa and Yogyakarta-based Bernas journalist Fuad “Udin” Muhammad Syafruddin, who was murdered on Aug. 16, 1996, in a case that has not been resolved.
According to a 2017 report from Freedom House, Indonesia’s press freedom status was “partly free” and impacted by the influence of politically wired media owners on editorial positions. The US government-funded NGO also cited restrictions imposed on foreign journalists aiming to cover Papua or West Papua as well as defamation laws as major concerns tainting the country’s press freedom. (swd)