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Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and freedom of the press; however, the Government at times restricted these rights in practice. During the year, the Government jailed at least five peaceful anti-government protestors convicted of "insulting the President" or "spreading hatred against the Government." In addition, politicians and powerful businessmen showed greater willingness to file criminal or civil complaints against journalists whose work they found insulting or offensive, and this trend undermined press freedom. Also during the year, journalists faced increasing threats or violence.
In January, after protests that followed a Government announcement of price increases, the President, police, and Cabinet ministers all spoke out against protestors who insulted "state symbols." By July, the Government had in the preceding 24-month period prosecuted 25 protestors who had peacefully expressed their political views. On April 28, the Yogyakarta District Court found Ignatius Mahendra Kusuma Wardana and Yoyok Edo Widodok guilty of burning a photo of the President and Vice President at a January rally and sentenced them to 3 years in prison. On June 16, a Jakarta court sentenced Iqbal Siregar of the Islamic Youth Movement (GPI) to 5 months in prison for insulting the President at an anti-government protest in front of the State Palace. Siregar had carried a poster featuring the President with tape covering her eyes and had also started a chant: "This is the President who has disappointed the people." NGOs such as HRW, Amnesty International, and Kontras criticized the Government's prosecution of peaceful protestors.
In Aceh province, press freedom deteriorated during the year. Martial law administrators took various steps to limit information coming out of Aceh, including restricting access of foreign journalists and diplomats, blocking cellular telephones, and forbidding contact with GAM. Journalists in Aceh experienced serious difficulties operating under martial law. The Government issued a decree that required each news coverage activity to "be supported by written permission by the head of Aceh's Emergency Military Authority." However, enforcement of the decree was erratic. In practice, only foreign journalists and local journalists reporting for foreign news organizations required special permits from the martial law administrator. The administration did not directly censor reporters' stories, but many local journalists felt intimidated by public criticism from army spokesmen about specific stories, as well as by passionate statements from military commanders urging journalists to report "patriotically." Journalists also expressed concern that critical reporting of TNI operations could cause them to lose access to military press briefings. Finally, the uncertain security situation in many parts of the province limited access to many areas. In the early weeks of the operation, the TNI operated a program of "embedding" journalists with military patrols. Many journalists who worked in Aceh--both embedded and independent--indicated they felt threatened by both GAM and the TNI in reporting on events. The military terminated the embedding program after 1 month. Some journalists complained that pressure by the TNI on their Jakarta-based editors also limited negative reporting of the conflict. For example, in late May, the Surya Citra Television network (SCTV) fired reporter/producer Dandhy Dwi Laksono after the network aired Laksono's interview with an Acehnese man who said he had been tortured by soldiers. Laksono told a media watchdog group that the TNI took offense at the report and that this prompted his dismissal.
Journalists faced violence and intimidation from police, soldiers, government officials, rebels, thugs, students, and ordinary citizens. During the year, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) recorded at least 36 physical attacks against journalists as well as 24 non-physical acts that included death threats and lawsuits. For example, on February 26 in the West Java city of Bandung, police assaulted five journalists who were covering a student protest outside the provincial assembly building (DPRD). Dedi Sudandi of the daily Pikiran Rakyat was preparing to photograph a policeman who was beating a student when Sudandi was dragged into a crowd of policemen and pummeled. Police intentionally fired a water cannon at the other four journalists and damaged their television equipment. On August 23, approximately 30 unidentified youths ransacked the Maluku Media Center in Ambon, injuring a number of persons and destroying furniture. Police later arrested nine persons and said the attack was not news related but linked to an earlier dispute that occurred near the center.
There were many violent attacks against journalists in Aceh. For example, on June 19, the corpse of TVRI cameraman Jamaluddin was found near Banda Aceh with his hands tied, mouth sealed, and head covered with a plastic bag (see Section 1.a.); however, evidence suggested that the killing may have been unrelated to his press activities. On July 20 in the North Aceh community of Krueng Keukeuh, unknown gunmen opened fire on the home of Waspada newspaper journalist Idrus Jeumpa, killing Jeumpa's wife and injuring him and his two children. In early July in the South Aceh village of Panton Luas, five soldiers allegedly beat brutally 68H radio journalist Alif Imam Nurlambang. On June 29, the GAM abducted journalists Ersa Siregar and Fery Santoso, along with the wives of two Air Force officers (see Section 1.b.). The GAM's commander in East Aceh, Ishak Daud, defended the abductions by saying that TNI intelligence officers frequently used vehicles marked "press," an assertion confirmed by journalists.
Expulsion was occasionally used against journalists. For example, on June 24, Aceh military authorities forced Korean reporter Jeong Moon Tae and Indonesian Reuters photographer Tarmidzi Harva to leave the province.
On March 8, persons linked to well-connected tycoon Tomy Winata appeared at Tempo Magazine's headquarters in Jakarta and criticized an article that implied Winata stood to benefit from a mysterious fire that destroyed a Jakarta market. They assaulted Tempo journalists, including Chief Editor Bambang Harymurti, both at the headquarters and later at a police station. Tempo lawyers reported the matter to the authorities and sued the assailants, but judges exonerated the group's leader. Winata's attorneys responded by initiating four new lawsuits (two civil and two criminal), actions that free press activists asserted were attempts to intimidate media companies into silence. On September 29, a judge in one of the four suits impounded the home of one of the defendants, Tempo columnist Goenawan Mohammad. The seizure warrant was issued after the impoundment occurred. A separate panel of judges called the action "erroneous," but declined to reverse the court order. On October 6, a Jakarta court ruled in favor of AJI in a civil suit against the police, who failed to act to protect journalists during the March 8 Tempo attack.
Government leaders and politicians showed greater willingness to use legal action against journalists for defamation claims. In September, Jakarta prosecutors demanded a 1-year sentence for Rakyat Merdeka daily editor Soepratman, who was charged with defaming President Megawati by publishing four defamatory headlines, such as: "Mega's Mouth Reeks of Diesel Fuel." On October 22, Soepratman was acquitted of slander; however, he was convicted of spreading hatred against the Government and given a 6-month suspended sentence. On September 9, a Jakarta court delivered a suspended 5-month sentence to another Rakyat Merdeka editor, Karim Paputungan, for a front-page political cartoon that showed an unflattering portrayal of Akbar Tandjung, the Golkar Party chairman and DPR Speaker who was convicted in 2002 of embezzling $4.5 million in state funds intended for public food assistance.
The Government did not initiate legal action against any person responsible for crimes committed against journalists in 2002. However, following a lawsuit filed by AJI, the Central Jakarta District Court on January 27 ordered Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso to apologize to a reporter who had been intimidated by a city public order officer. The journalist, Edi Hariyadi, was reporting on an eviction in March 2002 when the officer, Dapot Manihuruk, tried to prevent him from covering the story. Hariyadi later experienced repeated acts of intimidation. Sutiyoso's lawyers appealed the decision to the High Court and the case was under consideration at year's end. In a separate case, the Government did not make any arrests in connection with the June 2002 police beating of journalist Wisnu Dewabrata. According to Media Watch, Kompas sued the police force but then, fearing difficulties with the police, withdrew the suit. Police then allegedly sent an apology to Dewabrata.
Pervasive corruption undermined journalism, as did the lack of an enforceable journalistic code of ethics. According to an international survey published in September, the country was among the three countries where journalists were most likely to compromise their integrity by taking bribes.
During the year, the Government began implementing the Broadcasting Law that was passed in November 2002, including issuing frequency licenses and forming what appeared to be a fair broadcasting commission; however, since the law was still under judicial review for conformity with the Constitution, it was not fully implemented by year's end. Some critics argued that the law could permit censorship.
Despite numerous incidents of violence and intimidation of the press, there were some positive developments. Unity among journalists and their commitment to protect their colleagues appeared to have strengthened. Some members of the press also continued their aggressive reporting on such issues as corruption, Aceh, and environmental degradation. As decentralization proceeded, regional media increasingly prospered. In addition, moderate Islamic publications increased in number and popularity; some observers characterized the publications as the voice of the "silent majority." Panjimas magazine reinvented itself to present moderate views more aggressively, and the women's magazine Noor tried to promote a modern Islamic female lifestyle. Editors of both magazines said they were consciously responding to radical publications such as Sabili magazine, which they asserted did not reflect the majority Muslim view of the world.
A Government-supervised Film Censorship Institute continued to censor domestic and imported movies for content that is pornographic or deemed religiously offensive. By law, Communist teachings cannot be disseminated or developed. Although no mainstream books were banned during the year, Central Java Police Chief Didi Widayadi announced on September 19 that the provincial government had banned publications that describe methods for carrying out acts of terrorism or holy war.
The Government did not restrict Internet usage or content.
The law provides for academic freedom, and the Government did not restrict academic freedom.
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