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AJI criticises interrogation of journalists

(AJI/IFEX) - The following is an 8 September 1999 AJI press release:


On Wednesday, (8/9/1999) the Indonesian Police (Polri) interrogated ANTV's
news manager, Bachtiar, at Police Headquarters, in relation to an ANTV
interview with Free Aceh Movement (GAM) leader, Tengku Abdullah Syafie,
which the private television network broadcast on its "Fakta," program
(23/08/1999). Police claimed that the ANTV interview was inflammatory and
threatened national unity. An hour earlier, ANTV editor-in-chief, Azkarmin
Zaini, was also interrogated in relation to the same matter. Both of them,
although still witnesses at this stage, have been threatened with Clause 64

AJI's sources indicate that the police conducted this interrogation after
receiving an instruction from Armed Forces Headquarters. The Indonesian Army
were criticised by the GAM leader during the interview. Both the
interrogation and accusation are without sensible premise, as other media
have conducted similar interviews with the same figure. In any case, it is
the right of the mass media to conduct such an interview, and the right of
the Indonesian people to hear the views of the GAM leader as broadcast by
the television station. And as it happens, the program cannot be faulted in
journalistic terms, as it was an example of balanced reporting which covered
both sides. In fact, to maintain this balance, Anteve delayed the broadcast
of the interview by eight days, to allow them to also present comments from
the Minister of Defence/Commander of the Armed Forces, Wiranto.

The interrogation of the Anteve crew is a clear breach of press freedom,
something that Indonesian society has only been able to enjoy since
Soeharto's topple from power. The matter is also a clear indication that
neither the Armed Forces nor the police are aware that press freedom is a
pillar of democracy, in addition to being a basic human right that is
guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In response to the above, the Alliance of Independent Journalists:

1. Criticises the interrogation of the Anteve crew, and demands that it be
immediately halted and the case closed.
2. Demands that the Armed Forces and police respect press freedom as a human
right and requirement for democracy, and thus cease all breaches of,
pressure and threats towards press freedom.

Jakarta, 8 September 1999

Ging Ginanjar
Coordinator, Advocacy Division

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