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Jakarta Post

‘There was no order to act hostile toward journalists’, 212 prayer event leader says

  • Gisela Swaragita

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, February 23, 2019   /   02:38 pm
 ‘There was no order to act hostile toward journalists’, 212 prayer event leader says Participants of 212 Munajat prayer event conduct a Maghrib prayer at the National Monument (Monas) on Thursday evening, Feb 21. (Antara/Rivan Awal Lingga)

The organizers of the 212 Munajat prayer have denied that journalists covering the event were assaulted by event participants, claiming the incidents were incidental and that organizers not had directed people to act in a hostile manner toward journalists.

At the event held at the National Monument (Monas) on Thursday evening, several journalists were reportedly intimidated and assaulted by event participants including 212 members and members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI). The alleged incidents were reportedly triggered by the search for a pickpocket.

The organizers regretted that the commotion caused by pickpockets and provocateurs had stained the event, the event leader Idrus al-Habsyi said.

He said the alleged violence against journalists was incidental and was not part of the standard operating procedures set by the organizers or the LPI, which was assigned as the security team.

“There was no order to act firmly toward journalists,” Idrus said in a statement made available to The Jakarta Post, adding that the alleged violence experienced by the journalists might have been an unintended consequence of the emotion-driven volunteers' efforts to catch the pickpocket. 

He added that the organizers had observed that there had been concerted efforts to blow up the incident to divert attention away from the success of the prayer gathering.

“The event was solemn and peaceful, where ummah [Islamic society] members were knocking on the sky’s door, pouring their heart out to God,” he said.

Read also: ‘Tape the good side, not the bad side!’: Journalists intimidated, assaulted while covering 212 prayer

The accusations of journalist intimidation were part of a systematic attempt by the anti-Islamic movement to label and frame the organizers as violent, he added. 

The Jakarta Chapter of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) has condemned the alleged incident and reported that a journalist, Satria Kusuma, with Detik.com was targeted by a crowd of people who had “secured” him in a VIP tent. In the tent, he was allegedly beaten, scratched and forced to squat in front of dozens of people. His cellphone was allegedly seized and all his photos and videos deleted. They also uninstalled the WhatsApp messaging app to prevent him from contacting people.

A journalist from CNN named Joni Aswira was also reportedly scolded by a crowd of people who asked him the name of the media organization he worked for.

“We believe their deleting of videos and photos from these journalists' cameras is illegal. They have hampered journalists' efforts to fulfill the public’s right to information,” Asnil Bambang Amri, head of AJI Jakarta, and Erick Tanjung, head of AJI Jakarta Advocation, said in a statement.

They cited the 1999 Press Freedom Law, which provides legal protection for journalists to report news to the public. The law also stipulates that violators could be punished by two years imprisonment or a Rp 500 million (US$35,543.25) fine.

The case was reported to the Central Jakarta Police just after midnight on Friday.

Central Jakarta Police spokesperson Adj. Comr. Purwadi said the case was now under investigation.

“The reported case is of collective violence toward a person or object in public,” he told The Jakarta Post on Friday. If apprehended, the suspects could face charges under Article 170 of the Criminal Code, which carries a maximum punishment of five years and six months imprisonment.

The 212 movement is linked to the massive sectarian rally on Dec. 2, 2016, that called for prosecution of then-Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama for blasphemy. (ggq)