Sat, 13 Mar 1999

15 journalists abused in W. Sumatra, Kalimantan

JAKARTA (JP): The Padang Legal Aid Office has urged the West Sumatra Police to carry out a thorough investigation of the maltreatment of 14 journalists in Gunung Medan, West Sumatra, on Thursday.

"The police should give an official explanation as to why they failed to give protection to the journalists during the incident," Miko Kamal, chairman of the office, said in a press release in the West Sumatra provincial capital of Padang on Friday.

The office also called on all sides to respect the profession of journalism.

Journalists of Kompas, Padang Ekpres, Haluan and Singgalang dailies, SCTV and TVRI TV stations were beaten up and threatened with death by workers of a sawmill, PT SBU, in Gunung Medan, around 230 kilometers east of Padang, as they were about to cover confiscation by the Padang district court of the company's assets.

Kompas reported on Friday that G. Santos, a TPI reporter and Afrinal Aliman, a Singgalang reporter were treated at the Yos Sudarso Hospital in Padang for injuries they suffered in the attack.

Risman, a SCTV correspondent, said that they were attacked upon their arrival at the plant. He said dozens of security personnel could do nothing to protect them, and two cars which they were riding in were also damaged.

He said they escaped after being forced to hand over their cassettes and film used in taking pictures of the sawmill to the angry mob.

The court decided to confiscate the assets after the businessman running the plant failed to honor obligations to Basril Djabar, the plant site owner. The businessman, An Rasyid had reportedly agreed to pay Rp 10 million, three months rental for the three-hectare site.

Masri Marjan, chairman of the Indonesian Journalists Association's provincial chapter in Padang, also urged police to investigate the incident.

West Sumatra Police chief Col. Dasrul Lamsudin promised on Friday that he would investigate the case thoroughly.

Meanwhile, Lamhot Sihotang, a journalist of the Forum news magazine, was still in intensive care at an Army hospital in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, recovering from serious injuries. He was stabbed by two unidentified men apparently for his report on gambling activities in the city.

Antara news agency reported on Friday that the victim was stabbed in front of the Kapuas Palace Hotel in the city on Thursday night.

A local correspondent quoted police as saying they had arrested one of three suspects. (rms)