Wed, 24 Jul 2002

Media outlets being sued for cigarette ads

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Five foundations filed a lawsuit against two giant cigarette producers, two private television stations, two print media and three advertising companies in connection with what they allege were illegal cigarette commercials.

The plaintiffs demanded the accused, comprising PT Djarum Kudus Tbk, PT HM Sampoerna Tbk, television stations RCTI and SCTV; print media Bisnis Indonesia, Gatra, PT Perada Swara Production, PT Citra Lintas Indonesia and PT Metro Perdana Indonesia, to pay Rp 500 billion (US$55.5 million) in compensation to finance health promotion and to establish a foundation to manage it.

The lawsuit was initiated by the Indonesian Consumers Foundation (YLKI), the Indonesian Heart Foundation (YJI), the Indonesian Women against Tobacco Foundation (WITT), the Indonesian Cancer Foundation (YKI) and the Foundation for Coping with Smoking Problems (YLM3).

One of the plaintiffs' lawyers, Sudaryatmo, who is also from YLKI, told the South Jakarta District Court on Wednesday, that the lawsuit was a result of a series of cigarette commercials from June to December 2001.

The commercials, which were aired on RCTI and SCTV in the morning and afternoon, violated Government Regulation No. 38/2000 stipulating that the electronic media is only allowed to run cigarette advertisements between 9:30 p.m and 5 a.m., according to the lawsuit.

The advertisements also displayed the cigarette boxes and the cigarettes in violation of Government Regulation No. 81/1999 on cigarette precautions for health, which states that the content of a commercial must not display the cigarettes or models/actors in the act of smoking.

The print versions of the advertisements, too, displayed the cigarette packages. The lawsuit said that the publication of the cigarette advertisements violated Paragraph 13 article C of the Press Law No. 40/1999 on the restriction for publishing companies to publish commercials displaying cigarette products or smoking.

"The accused are responsible for the increased cigarette consumption nowadays that leads to health risks for the consumers as well as passive smokers," lawyer Sudaryatmo said.

Presiding judge Tjaraka Imam Widadadi adjourned the hearing for two weeks.

In 1987, lawyer R.O. Tambunan, on behalf of Indonesian youth, filed a class-action suit against cigarette producer PT Bentoel, for allegedly violating the law by using the words Remaja Jaya (Successful Youth) as the brand name of its product.

However, the Central Jakarta District Court dismissed the Rp 1 trillion lawsuit, saying that Tambunan had no right to take action as a representative of Indonesian youth.

Tambunan had said that the product, which contained nicotine, could destroy young people and eventually lead to the fall of the nation.

The suit was filed not only against PT Bentoel, but also the city administration, the patent and copyright directorate of the Ministry of Justice and Prambors radio.