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Jakarta Post

Former agriculture minister sues Tempo for Rp 100 billion over sugar report

  • Sausan Atika

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, November 7, 2019   /   03:22 pm
Former agriculture minister sues Tempo for Rp 100 billion over sugar report Illustration of court (Shutterstock/-)

Former agriculture minister has filed a civil lawsuit with the South Jakarta District Court against Tempo weekly magazine over an investigative report it published in September on the ministry’s efforts in making the country self-sufficient in sugar.

According to the court’s Public Service Information System (SIPP), the lawsuit was lodged on Oct. 18, two days before President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo was inaugurated for his second term and changed the agriculture minister.

The plaintiff in the case is the agriculture minister for the previous Cabinet, Amran Sulaiman, who has retained the services of lawyer Sabarman Saragih.

The defendants are Tempo magazine, published by PT Tempo Inti Media, Tempo then-chief editor Arief Zulkifli ─ who has since been replaced by Wahyu Dhyatmika ─ and Tempo managing editor for investigative reports Bagja Hidayat.

The plaintiff is demanding compensation of Rp 22.04 million (US$1,570) in material damage and Rp 100 billion in non-material damage.

The minister is also demanding that Tempo publish half-page apologies in the weekly and in national newspapers for seven consecutive days and that Tempo print a correction and publicly apologize to the ministry through statements in at least 10 mainstream newspapers and online news media.

The plaintiff has also demanded that Tempo be issued an asset preservation order on the media group’s headquarters at Jl. Palmerah Barat No. 8 in West Jakarta.

Wahyu said the company had learned of the lawsuit only on Wednesday. “We will discuss it internally,” he told The Jakarta Post.

The ministry filed a complaint with the Press Council in September concerning two of six reports published in Tempo's Sept. 9 to 15 edition, under the main headline “Investigation into Amran and Isam’s [ways] toward sugar self-sufficiency”.

Amran and Isam refer to former agriculture minister Amran and businessman Andi Syamsuddin Arsyad, better known as Isam.

In the reports, Tempo wrote that Isam, who is also Amran’s cousin, was the owner of Jhonlin Group, which was one among 10 business groups selected to invest in developing sugar factories ─ one government solution to reduce imports and reach self-efficiency in sugar by 2024.

Citing officials in Southeast Sulawesi, Tempo reported that Amran had held talks with local officials to ease investment permit issuance for Isam’s company to establish a sugarcane plantation and sugar factory in the province’s Bombana regency.

In the lawsuit, the ministry has objected to Tempo’s reports, calling them inaccurate, subjective and having the potential to lead to negative public opinion.

In a recommendation dated Oct. 22, which is accessible to the public on the Press Council’s website dewanpers.or.id, the council suggested the Agriculture Ministry send a right of reply to Tempo no later than seven working days after receiving the recommendation.

As the recommendation is “final and ethically binding”, as written in the document, Wahyu said he hoped the ministry would respect the council’s decision and follow procedure according to that stipulated in the Press Law.

As a lawsuit has been filed with the court, Wahyu said, “We will follow the [legal] process.”

The Post attempted to contact the Agriculture Ministry’s legal bureau head, Maha Matahari Eddy Purnomo, for comment but had received no response of the time of writing.