Sat, 08 Oct 1994

Court grants hearing of `Tempo' versus Harmoko

JAKARTA (JP): The Jakarta State Administrative Court agreed yesterday to grant a hearing of lawsuits filed separately by senior journalist Goenawan Mohamad and Tempo journalists against Minister of Information Harmoko.

The court ruled to merge the two lawsuits into one and ordered the lawyers for the plaintiffs to improve the wording and update the list of plaintiffs. The lawyers have one week to comply.

The lawsuits name Harmoko as the defendant for revoking the publishing license of Tempo last June. The plaintiffs question the legality of Harmoko's decision and also the legality of the decree which empowers the minister to revoke the license of a press publication.

Benjamin Mangkoedilaga, chief of the State Administrative Court, told journalists yesterday after presiding over a closed preliminary hearing that the lawsuits had been accepted after passing dismissal motions.

For practical reasons the court decided to handle the two lawsuits at the same time since both involve the same material and are handled by the same lawyers, who filed charges against the same person.

The second lawsuit was originally filed by 51 displaced journalists and employees of Tempo, but some of them may have withdrawn their participation as they have decided to join others in establishing a new magazine called Gatra.

Tempo sources said yesterday that two or three journalists named as plaintiffs have joined Gatra, a magazine financed by timber tycoon Mohammad (Bob) Hasan.

Mangkoedilaga also asked lawyers to see that the plaintiffs improve the wording in Goenawan's suit, which asked the court to order the minister to revoke the controversial decree.

"The court does not have the authority to make such an order, but we can order the minister to issue another decree to allow Tempo to resume publication," he said.

The lawsuit filed by Tempo employees and journalists was slightly different from the one filed by Goenawan because they asked the court to freeze the ministerial decree on the withdrawal of the weekly, pending the final decision on the case, said Harjono Tjitrosoebono, chairman of the Indonesian Bar Association (Ikadin). Tjitrosoebono is one of nine lawyers representing the plaintiffs.

Several officials from the information ministry and two prosecutors from the Attorney General's Office -- in their capacity as Harmoko's lawyers -- also met with the court chief separately to discuss the lawsuits later yesterday.

Tempo lost its publication license in June along with DeTIK and Editor. A number of former Tempo journalists are now preparing a new magazine called Opini and have applied for a new license.


In another press-related development, the proprietor of Simponi magazine yesterday announced it will cease publication pending a resolution of its internal problems.

Simponi launched its first new-look edition this week after it joined forces with displaced journalists of DeTIK. This was seen as a way of circumventing the need to apply for a new license.

After the first issue, the Association of Indonesian Journalists (PWI) withdrew their recommendation of Simponi's chief editor Sjamsu Hadi saying that he had failed to comply with the terms set out in the recommendation. The PWI recommendation is a requirement for a publishing license.

Eros Djarot, former editor of DeTIK, who is now "chief of media relations" for Simponi, said yesterday that the weekly will cease publication indefinitely. "It was our own decision not to publish the next issue."

"Next week, Oct. 11, there will be no Simponi," Eros said.

Eros explained that due to PWI's withdrawal of their recommendation, the tabloid now has to find a new manager and chief editor for the magazine. For this reason, he said, the tabloid would temporarily cease publication.

"I hope it's not longer than one month," he said.

Eros said the internal matters with the tabloid could easily be settled. However, the process could be prolonged indefinitely because of what he perceived as "political reasons."

Eros revealed that he had been told by "inside sources" that the recent snags thrown in Simponi's direction were actually a personal attack on him.

"If the case is directed at me, I will be ready to resign," Eros remarked, adding he would only do so after there was a guarantee of the tabloid's future. (sim/mds)