Journalists still go to jail after reforms
21 June 2008 12:05 pm

risang_bima_wijaya.jpgWhat is the point of press freedom laws if journalists still go to jail? The Independent Journalists Alliance (AJI) of Indonesia calls  for end to criminalization of journalists based on their reports and calls on disputing parties to refer to the Press Council following the case of Risang Bima Wijaya.

Journalists still go to jail after reforms 

The Independent Journalists Alliance (AJI) of Indonesia is calling for an end to criminalization and imprisonment of journalists based on their reports. It also urged the authorities to respect Press Freedom laws in the country and refer to the Press Council for any disputes.

At the same time, AJI, a FORUM-ASIA member in Jakarta, has also urged journalists to defend press freedom, improve their professionalism and obey journalistic ethics.

“Any violation against the journalistic code of ethics can degrade the quality of reporting and undermine the press freedom we have been fighting for,” said AJI, in a press statement recently.

“AJI supports law enforcement against journalists who are found guilty of committing crimes such as blackmailing, cheating, robbing, raping and killing.

However, AJI opposes sending journalists to jail for their reporting,” the Alliance added.

“Threatening and sending journalists to jail over their reporting constitutes a threat to press freedom,’ it further said.

The statement also welcomed the release of Risang Bima Wijaya, journalist and former general manager of "Radar Yogya", a daily newspaper in Cebongan Penitentiary Institution in Sleman, after six months of imprisonment.

He was arrested in January 2008 and jailed six months for defamation. He wrote a series of articles in Radar Yogja on the involvement of Sumadi M Wonohito, the general manager of Kedaulatan Rakyat Daily, for sexual harassment of a female employee in 2002.

Wonohito sued Wijaya under Article 310 of the Criminal Code on "insulting by writing", and filed a lawsuit against "Radar Yogya" in a civil court, where he was later convicted and jailed.

AJI is concerned because Wijaya’s imprisonment occurred despite Press reform laws in Indonesia since 1999. Law Number 40 on the Press guarantees press freedom (Article 4) and encourages the professionalism of journalists (Article 5).