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Court deems basis of editor's indictment "inaccurate", but still considers his publishing of cartoon a crime

(AJI/IFEX) - On 20 September 2006, the South Jakarta District Court made a preliminary decision against Teguh Santosa, the executive editor of "Rakyat Merdeka Online". In the ruling, the judicial panel agreed with the defense made by Santosa's attorneys, the Advocacy Team to Defend Journalists, that the legal basis for the indictment was inaccurate.

The panel of judges, however, rejected the demand by Santosa's attorneys to drop the prosecutors' indictment. The panel declared Santosa's action to be a general crime as defined by the Criminal Code, and they rejected the use of Press Law No. 40 of 1999 in Santosa's defense.

Santosa was brought to court for publishing one of 12 caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed originally published by the Danish newspaper "Jyllands Posten".

The prosecutors accused Santosa of violating article 156a of the Criminal Code on "insult against religion".

In response to the court's ruling, the AJI Indonesia:

1. Welcomes the rejection of the indictment against Santosa on the violation of Article 156a;

2. Expresses deep concern over the preliminary ruling by the judicial panel, which ruled that Santosa's journalistic work was a general crime;

3. Urges judicial officials across Indonesia to use the Press Law No. 40 of 1999 in press cases, as required by Supreme Court ruling No 1608 K/PID/2005 in the case of Bambang Harymurti;

4. Calls on all sides to use existing mechanisms provided by the Press Law - the right to respond, the right to make corrections and the obligation to make corrections - or to file complaints on disputes over press reports to the Press Council.

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