AJI press release
Most of the Indonesian media toned down their reporting of the arrest of independent journalists and avoided reporting the press conference held by the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) on Monday while giving strategic columns to comments by government officials.
"This is apparently an open conflict between journalists and journalists," said AJI spokesman Andreas Harsono, referring to the growing conflict between the state-sponsored Persatuan Wartawan Indonesia (PWI) and his fledgling union, AJI.
Local channels broadcast interviews with Information Ministers Harmoko, himself a journalist, who was repeatedly said he will close down any media that employs AJI members.
Indonesia currently has one state-owned channel, TVRI, and five privately--run stations, RCTI, SCTV, TPI, AN-Teve and Indosiar. All the private channels are controlled by children and associates of President Suharto.
Harmoko himself started his career as a cartoonist of the Merdeka daily in the 1960s. Later he published his own paper, Pos Kota, in the early 1970s, during which time he became chairman of the PWI.
In 1993, while keeping his position as Information Minister, Harmoko rose to power as the chairman of the Golkar ruling party.
In a related development, Major-General Syarwan Hamid, spokesman of the armed forces, was quoted by the Republika daily as saying that the arrest of AJI members is legal. "The police have done their job legally," Hamid said, referring to the arrests, which were made without warrants and now without lawyers.
Republika, owned by the powerful Association of Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals (ICMI), ran four separate items on the crackdown of AJI. It quote Tarman Azzam, the chairman of the Jakarta branch of the PWI, as saying that the association will crack down on AJI. During a celebration of Indonesia's National Press Day in South Jakarta on Sunday, he reminded editors that it would be better to sack their employees who are involved in AJI as soon as possible, before the PWI revokes their recommendation as chief editors.
Azzam revoked the PWI recommendation of the chief editor of Simfoni tabloid (the successor of DeTik), prompting the closure of the tabloid.
In an interview, Media Indonesia quoted Maswadi Rauf, a lecturer on communications at University of Indonesia said that the government should crack down on the emerging underground publications in Indonesia. "The art of journalism is playing within the limit, not against them," he said, commenting that AJI journalists are those who hit their heads against the wall.
On Monday morning, lawyers of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation and some members of AJI met the three detainees, Ahmad Taufik, Eko Maryadi and Danang, at the detention centre of the Jakarta Police HQ. "So far, they are alright, no beating, but intimidation and long questioning, yes," said one of the visitors.
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