JOURNALISTS LIVING DANGEROUSLY DESPITE NEW FREEDOMS
Journalism is becoming increasingly unsafe in Indonesia, according to the Alliance of Independent Journalists' (AJI) end-of-year note and a report from the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) entitled "100 Attacks on Indonesian Journalists." Ironically, this comes at a time when press freedom is on the rise. Between January and mid-October 2000, 118 cases of violence and pressure toward the press were documented by AJI. Members of the public with grievances against the press are increasingly engaging in violence. In many cases, violence is perpetrated by private security forces and militias. In one case last May, the office of the "Jawa Pos" was invaded by the Banser NU, the paramilitary youth wing of the influential grassroots Muslim organisation Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), resulting in the daily's Sunday edition going unpublished. In another incident in June, the office of the tabloid "Bijak" in Padang was invaded and destroyed by students and lecturers of the Padang State University who were dissatisfied with a published article. SEAPA reports that the lack of confidence in the legal system, along with the cost and delays involved in legal proceedings, are among the reasons why people are choosing "street justice" over legal recourse.
AJI adds that the police were involved in 13 cases of violent actions against journalists, in addition to ten cases of non-physical pressure. Furthermore, economic difficulties facing the press are making journalists' lives more difficult, with few media companies treating their workers well. AJI's data show that of the 705 media outlets operating in the country, only 15% are considered to be in good financial condition. Many journalists who lose their jobs do not receive sufficient compensation for dismissal, while those journalists still working often must get by on meager salaries.