The Jakarta Post
Journalists and rights activists across Indonesia were outraged by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s move to grant remission to I Nyoman Susrama, the mastermind behind the murder of Anak Agung Gde Bagus Narendra Prabangsa, a Radar Bali daily journalist, calling on the incumbent to annul the decision.
Jokowi issued Presidential Decree No. 29/2018, which commuted Susrama’s sentence from a life sentence to 20 years imprisonment. Jokowi also granted remission to 114 other prisoners across the country.
The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Denpasar and Mataram chapters as well as the Clean Judicial Network criticized the decision, saying it was a backward step in the efforts to uphold not only press freedom but also law enforcement in Indonesia.
AJI Denpasar chairman Nandhang R. Astika 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.
Echoing the sentiment, AJI Mataram chairwoman Fitri Rachmawati said the resolution of the Prabangsa murder case was a concrete form of the enforcement of press freedom in Indonesia. Before Prabangsa’s murder, no case of violence against a journalist had been resolved, much less given a tough sentence.
“In Bali, Prabangsa’s murderer was caught and sentenced to life, which is an anomaly in terms of law enforcement considering its history with violence against journalists, and it deserves our support,” she said as quoted by Antara on Thursday.
In Yogyakarta, representatives of the AJI Yogyakarta chapter, the local student press and civil society organizations staged a rally at the Titik Nol monument urging the President to annul the decision.
“Should Jokowi not revoke the remission, we’ll make him the common enemy of press freedom and corruption eradication efforts,” AJI Yogyakarta’s advocacy division coordinator Tommy Apriando said on Thursday.
Yogyakarta Legal Aid Institute for the Press director Pito Agustin Rudiana emphasized that Susrama did not deserve the remission.
Criminologist Leopold Sudaryono said the government had failed to grasp the essence of the case.
"This case was not just about the murder of Prabangsa, but also the guarantee of safety for the Indonesian press as a whole," he said.
I Nyoman Susrama was sentenced to life after judges found him guilty for masterminding the murder of Anak Agung Gde 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 found floating in the 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 was killed.
Prabangsa had written articles on the alleged misuse of funds allocated for building an international kindergarten and elementary school. Susrama, the younger brother of the then-Bangli regent I Nengah Arnawa, was involved in the project.
Prosecutors demanded that Susrama be given a death sentence, but he was charged with a life sentence instead. He was charged with violating Article 340 of the Criminal Code on premeditated murder. He is currently serving his sentence in Bangli prison.
The CPJ recorded that 10 Indonesian journalists have been killed on duty between 1992 and 2019. Eight of them were murdered, one died in a crossfire and another 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. (spl/swd)