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INDONESIA – Government must act on army officer’s assault of journalist

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The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), also a member of FORUM-ASIA, today called for an urgent review of laws that apply to military personnel in Indonesia following an incident where a military officer assaulted and threatened a journalist in Aceh province.

Ahmadi, an Aceh-based journalist working for Harian Aceh, was beaten and threatened with death on May 19 for investigating possible links between illegal logging in the province and the military, according to the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).

According to Ahmadi and reports by local media, First Lieutenant (Lettu) Faisal Amin elbowed Ahmadi to the face and threatened to kill his family if he did not change or retract the content of the article published in Harian Aceh on May 21.

The assault, which took place at a shooting range in a Military District Command field, also involved Amin firing shots at targets at the range throughout the incident. Amin also asked Ahmadi to take off his clothes, which he refused.

Ahmadi, who suffered bruising and swelling to the face from the attack, lodged complaints with police and the military on May 22 and May 24, according to the AJI.

However, insufficient legal action has been taken. AJI reports that an expected hearing at Meulaboh Military Police office scheduled for Monday was suddenly postponed. To date, only military officers and the perpetrator have been invited to a hearing. The perpetrator is not yet a suspect and provincial police have not yet been investigated, according to AJI.

This is despite the head of the public relations section of the Iskandar Muda Military Area Command in the province’s capital, Banda Aceh, admitting on May 24 that Ahmadi was assaulted by a military officer, according to the AHRC.

“The assault on Ahmadi was intended to intimidate a journalist who was doing his job exposing possible links between criminal activities and local authorities,” IFJ Asia -Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

“Journalists performing their duty must have their rights protected under the law, which must be swift and effective. The IFJ and the Alliance of Independent Journalists call on Indonesia ‘s Government to conduct an immediate review of laws in order to allow civilian courts to hold military personnel accountable.”

(Source: IFJ, 9 June 2010)