Thu, 10 Apr 2003

AJI sues police for allowing attack on `Tempo' office

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) has filed a lawsuit against police for allowing the Tempo newsmagazine office to be attacked and its journalists assaulted.

The suit was filed in the Central Jakarta District Court on Wednesday. It named the National Police chief, the Jakarta Police chief, the Central Jakarta Police chief and the Menteng Police Subprecinct chief as defendants. AJI is seeking a public apology.

The case centered on the mob attack of the Tempo office on Jl. Proklamasi, Central Jakarta on March 8, and at the Menteng police station afterwards.

About 200 people, led by supporters of tycoon Tomy Winata, attacked the office to demand Tempo retract an article implying Tomy may have played a role in the recent fire that destroyed Tanah Abang market in Central Jakarta.

Dozens of police officers stood around as the mob attacked the office.

Some of the protesters then forced chief editor Bambang Harymurti and other journalists to escort them to the Menteng police station to "settle" the case.

In the police station, the journalists continued to be harassed. Chief editor Bambang Harymurti and journalists Ahmad Taufik, Abdul Manan and Karania Dharmasaputra were assaulted.

AJI committee for the defense of press freedom spokesman Bayu Wicaksono said police had violated Law No.2/2002 on Police, which states police have a duty to maintain security and order, enforce the law and must protect and serve the people.

The police were also accused of violating article 7 (d) of Law No.9/1998 on the Freedom of Speech, which says that the government apparatus is obliged to provide security in the implementation of the freedom of speech; and article 4 of Press Law no. 40/1999, which guarantees press freedom.

AJI said the violence may scare journalists and hamper the right of the people to information.

AJI asked the court to order the police to apologize to the journalists through six television stations, five radio stations and five print media.

The plaintiff also demanded the police include the press law in its curriculum at the Police Academy and the Police Staff College (PTIK).

Tomy had earlier reported Tempo to the police for libel, and Bambang and Taufik have been named suspects in the case.

The police have also named four of Tomy's bodyguards suspects in relation to the attack.