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Jakarta Post

Safety committee formed as violence against journalist rises

  • Ivany Atina Arbi

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, April 9, 2019   /   08:08 am
Safety committee formed as violence against journalist rises Journalists in Purwokerto, Central Java, stage a protest in response to the violence against their colleagues during a 212 Munajat prayer event at the National Monument in Central Jakarta on Feb. 21. (Antara/Idhad Zakaria)

Press agencies and legal aid organizations have formed the Journalist Safety Committee in the face of the rise in violence against journalists in Indonesia, especially during political years.

The nine institutions behind the committee are the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), the Indonesian Television Journalist Association (IJTI), the Indonesian Media Workers Federation (FSPMI), the Indonesian Cyber Media Association (AMSI), the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet), a trade union for media and creative workers (Sindikasi), the Legal Aid Institute for the Press (LBH Pers), the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) and Amnesty International Indonesia.

AJI chairman Abdul Manan said on Monday that the number of cases of violence against the country’s journalists kept increasing in recent years, from 60 cases in 2017 to 64 in 2018.

“The majority of the violence that has occurred lately has been driven by the rising intolerance [among political supporters],” he went on, citing that a number of journalists were reportedly persecuted while covering political events including the 212 Munajat prayers at the National Monument compound in Central Jakarta on Feb. 21.

Journalists from mainstream media outlets detik.com, suara.com and CNN Indonesia were allegedly intimidated and assaulted during the event, which was inspired by a massive rally on Dec. 2, 2016, that called for the prosecution of then Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama on blasphemy allegations.

“Such violence has increased massively along with the populism ala [US President] Trump promulgated by [presidential candidate] Prabowo Subianto, in which he has delegitimized the mainstream media,” Manan said, referring to Prabowo’s gesture of lashing out at journalists on several occasions during the presidential election campaign.

Prabowo previously criticized the mainstream media for not giving space to the 212 Rally Alumni held in Monas on Dec. 2, 2018, which, he claimed, was attended by millions. “I think the media are only waiting for me to say something wrong and write about it,” said the Gerindra Party chairman, who also attended the event and addressed the participants.

Most of the violence recorded by the AJI is in the form of physical abuse such as beatings and forced expulsions. However, it has also seen the rise of a new form of online persecution in the digital era.

Journalists from detik.com and kumparan.com were persecuted online in 2018 for--among other reasons--not writing the word “habib” before the name of Rizieq Shihab, the founder of hardline group the Islam Defenders Front (FPI). Habib is an Arabic honorific meaning “beloved”.

Speaking separately via phone, LBH Pers public lawyer Gading Yonggar said that online persecution was rising through several modus operandi, including the exploitation of private information to be spread online with the object of causing harm to the person identified.

“Journalists’ private data, like social media accounts, are spread to several groups to be subjected to violence, shaming, slander and so on,” Gading said.

The nine institutions have decided to unite in order to provide a better handling system of violence against journalists. If each of the organizations previously struggled on their own to handle a certain case, now they can combine all resources they have to resolve any case.

“Indonesia is certainly a big country, it would be better if we could work together and then tackle our lack of human resource problems,” Manan said.

He explained that every journalist who faced violence could report to any of the nine committee members.

Through a meeting, the case would then be verified, whether it was violence against a journalist or not. After getting verification, the victim of violence would get various levels of assistance, including medical and legal support.