Fri, 07 Mar 2003

Editor tried over Akbar's photograph

JAKARTA: Chief editor of Jakarta-based Rakyat Merdeka daily Karim Paputungan went on trial Thursday for allegedly defaming Speaker of the House of Representatives (DPR) Akbar Tandjung.

Karim faces a possible jail term of 16 months in prison for the offense.

Prosecutor Supomo told the South Jakarta District Court that a picture published by the newspaper last Jan. 8, 2002 "had convincingly attacked Akbar's reputation and image".

The newspaper published on its front page a caricature featuring Akbar wearing no shirt, crippled, sweating and looking sad in the picture.

Karim said Thursday the picture was published after being approved by the newspaper's editorial meeting.

"The aim was to describe Akbar's political position after a court sentenced him to jail. We didn't mean to humiliate him," he said.

Akbar was sentenced to three years in jail for his role in a Rp 40 billion (US$4.8 million) corruption case in 2002. Analysts have said that the verdict might harm Akbar's political career.

During the trial, defense lawyer Bahtiar Sitanggang asked presiding Judge Asnahwati to settle the case out of court. The judge, however, dismissed the request, saying that a criminal case had to be processed in court.

Rakyat Merdeka offers what some say is tabloid-style journalism. It often publishes articles and caricatures criticizing politicians here. Earlier this year, two of its editors were summoned by police for running stories deemed insulting to President Megawati Soekarnoputri. --JP