Indonesia Receives Mixed Review From Advocates

By webadmin on 11:24 am Dec 30, 2012
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Antonia Timmerman & SP/Erwin Cristianson

Rights advocates on Saturday gave a poor review of Indonesia’s performance in 2012 in terms of tackling corruption and securing human rights and press freedom.

The Indonesian Advocates Association (Ikadin) and the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) both expressed disappointment with the government’s efforts in these areas in the past year.

Prominent lawyer Taufik Basari said on behalf of Ikadin that while the quantity of corruption cases addressed had increased, the quality of the handling of such cases had not improved.

“In terms of quality, there is still room for improvement. The KPK [Corruption Eradication Commission], police and judiciary still have an important role to play in probing, investigating and capturing big cases that harm state finances,” Taufik said on Saturday.

Taufik blamed corruption, a lack of cooperation and professionalism, and the infiltration of a “legal mafia” into the justice system for its failings in 2012.

“It is only rational to demand inter-institutional professionalism and cooperation in enforcing the law when it comes to corruption, including the eradication of corrupt practices and disbanding the legal mafia, which includes members of the judiciary itself,” he said.

In its end-of-year report for 2012, Ikadin recommended focusing on these areas to improve the justice system in the coming year. If the current failings are not addressed, Taufik said, public trust in the justice system will be affected.

“Public trust in the law and the justice system has still not been restored,” he said. “Speedy and optimal reform of the justice system is the main task of the Supreme Court in 2013.”

Taufik added that tackling cases involving human rights violations is also crucial in restoring public faith in the courts.

“Look at the issues that have happened in various areas of Papua, Lampung, Poso and so on,” Taufik said. “These must receive special attention when it comes to resolving cases [of human rights violations] and creating preventative measures.”

According to data from Ikadin, instances of public intolerance increased in 2012. The association highlighted cases of intimidation, discrimination and violence related to ethnic, religious and social issues that occurred in many places in Indonesia.

“This country has not yet been able to overcome [intolerance], and provide a sense of security for all its citizens,” Taufik said. “If it continues, this failing will destroy the very fabric of the nation.”

Meanwhile, instances of violence against journalists dropped in 2012 despite several high-profile abuse allegations levied against the Indonesian Military (TNI) and government officials this year, according to an (AJI) report.

The press freedom organization recorded some 56 cases where journalists were attacked, verbally threatened or had their equipment destroyed in 2012.

Last year, the Legal Aid Foundation for the Press (LBH Pers) reported 96 acts of violence against journalists.

The AJI report documented 18 instances of physical abuse, 15 reports of verbal threats and 10 cases of reporters having their equipment damaged. AJI also included instances where journalists were prevented from covering certain stories or protests, censorship of the media and the banning of websites.

There were an additional 12 instances of violence directed at journalists working in Papua, including an attack on Oktovianus Pogau, a freelance reporter who contributes to the Jakarta Globe.

Despite the drop in numbers, AJI chairman Eko Maryadi warned that any blows to press freedom were worrying.

In recent months, several high-profile attacks on the press grabbed headlines in Indonesia. In mid-October, a member of the Indonesian Air Force, Lt. Col. Robert Simanjuntak, was caught on video kicking and choking journalists trying to shoot photos of a downed military plane in Pekanbaru, Riau.

One month later, journalists in Palembang claimed that members of the Indonesian Air Force smashed their equipment and choked another reporter at a demonstration in Sukarmi, Palembang. The reporters were allegedly documenting scenes of soldiers attacking protestors.

In East Nusa Tenggara, a local government official threatened to kill a journalist over a story detailing his expense claims.

All of the incidents were common stories in Indonesia, where the TNI and the government routinely rank as the top abusers of the press, Eko said on Friday.

Abused journalists also have little hope of seeing their attackers brought to justice, Eko added.

“So far there have been only seven cases handled by the police,” he said. “The rest were not investigated and the perpetrators were not caught.”

Eko called on the Manado Police to finish their investigation into the stabbing death of AJI member Aryono Linggotu. Aryono, a Metro Manado journalist, was killed during an argument about his motorcycle’s loud exhaust in November.

His alleged murderer was arrested by police in late November, but progress on the case is slow, Eko said, adding that the AJI is taking steps to push for a faster investigation into Aryono’s death.

“He was brutally murdered and had been stabbed 14 times, and to this day, his case, which is being handled by Manado Police, has progressed really slow,” Eko said.

The report also found that gender-based discrimination was still a significant issue in Indonesian newsrooms, including instances of sexual assaults and rules prohibiting women from covering criminal cases or fires.