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Jakarta Post

Letter to Editor

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, February 10, 2021   /   09:48 am
Letter to Editor Illustration of The Jakarta Post newspaper (JP/Seto Wardhana)

Response to publication in The Jakarta Post newspaper titled “Reformist pastor fired for alleged sexual misconduct”, and online media of thejakartapost.com titled “Pastor of reformist church fired for alleged sexual misconduct, opaque money management


February 9th, 2021

I am hereby writing in response to the publication in The Jakarta Post of the article “Pastor of reformist church fired for alleged sexual misconduct, opaque money management” (Nov. 28, 2020). In the online version, another article with the same title was published on the same day, but  my name and that of my brother were put in initials, i.e. https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/11/27/pastor-of-reformist-church-fired-for- alleged-sexual-misconduct-opaque-money-management.html. The article with my full name and photo remains published in the online version of the newspaper. As a comparison, referring to similar publications on sexual misconduct cases published in the Post, the personal identity and photo of the convicted has never been published until a court verdict was issued. For example,
https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/03/12/surabaya-pastor-named-suspect-for-alleged-sexual- abuse-of-a-minor.html

First, I would like to explain that this article is unfit for publication in a media organization with the national and international reputation of the Post. All of these false and unproven allegations were based on the congregation assembly of the small church of Gereja Komunitas Anugerah – Reformed Baptist Salemba (GKA). The assembly was attended by the GKA congregation and also by a few outsiders.

What was the urgency for publicizing this assembly in the Post, apart from violating my reputation, family honor and other people’s reputations?

I strongly suspect that this article was designed to impugn my reputation as a human rights activist and advocate for marginalized groups, which I have done for the past seven years.

Article title

The article stating the reformist pastor was fired is certainly untrue as I resigned as a pastor with the GKA and was only allowed to join half of the assembly.

The allegations of sexual misconduct and opaque money management are groundless and unproven.

The title directs readers to the article content, which clearly was not confirmed by me and was without supporting evidence as required in the prevailing law and regulations in Indonesia.

Unproven and groundless allegations

When the journalist Budi Sutrisno contacted me by mobile phone and WhatsApp messages on Nov. 26 2020, Budi merely introduced himself as a journalist with the Post and did not conduct

an interview or obtain written clarification from me. Up until publication of the article on Nov. 28, 2020, I was not contacted for clarification or an interview.

It is my opinion, as also confirmed by the Press Council in its Appraisal and Recommendation Statement (PPR) sent by the Press Council through WhatsApp and email on Feb. 3, that in both articles the Post did not check the information, was not balanced in publication and did not apply the presumption of innocence. In this regard, the Post did not uphold its motto of “Always Bold. Always Independent”.

  • We, my brother and I, were labeled as engaging in sexual misconduct and the GKA formed an ad hoc investigation team into the report by the victim. The fact is that the slander was based on an anonymous letter without stating the victim’s name or locus. This letter was read in the assembly. We are opposed to all kinds of sexual abuse and support legal efforts to resolve such cases. Beyond doubt, throwing out unproven allegations without lawful process is the most serious character defamation. Such allegations of sexual misconduct are frequently reported worldwide.
  • The Post in this regard severely impugned our reputation by displaying my photograph, my full name, my wife’s and my brother’s full names leading to the false public idea that there were legal processes against both of us. This is clearly harmful to both of us, as the stigma of being a perpetrator of sexual misconduct will be attached to us for our whole lives.
  • We are open to any justice enforcement in regard to sexual abuse allegations, yet the Post merely reported rumors. As of sending this right of response to the Post, there has been no legal or investigative action taken against us.
  • With regard to the opaque church money management, this has been resolved completely and again no evidence has been found. A report about the usage of funds has been finalized and sent to the donors. It should be acknowledged that human rights advocacy has been conducted by me personally and is not part of a GKA movement. Therefore, the GKA does not have the authority to ask for my responsibility.
  • In relation to the safe house program, not halfway house as stated in the article, all the funds were used to pay for the safe house and a funding report has been submitted to the GKA. The safe house itself continues to exist and is used for the protection of various marginalized groups. The Post article about the safe house is a repeat of vicious and unsubstantiated allegations that led to the impression that the safe house was used for our own personal interests.

The Post violated the journalistic code of ethics by not conducting verification, clarification and balanced consideration, and also by not applying the presumption of innocence. We hope that The Post has not reduced itself to becoming click bait media broadcasting sensationalist and unverified news.

We are convinced that this frivolous story was directed to the Post by irresponsible people who despise justice and truth. We hope that this right of response will remind the Post to persevere at being “Always Bold. Always Independent.”

 

Note: The Press Council determined that the initial reports, published on Nov. 28, 2020, had violated the Journalistic Code of Ethics after a Feb. 2 plenary session in Jakarta where the complaint registered by Suarbudaya Andi Rahadian and Donny Rahmawan against The Jakarta Post newspaper and thejakartapost.com were addressed. The Press Council gave its recommendations on Jan. 27 at a hearing that included the complainants and the chief editor of The Jakarta Post

We apologize to the complainants and to our readers for the error, and we have published this letter as a corrective measure