Sat, 05 Jul 2003

'Extra insurance for war journalists is a must'

Moch. N. Kurniawan, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Major Indonesian media outlets said on Friday that they were obligated to provide extra insurance cover for journalists covering war and conflict zones, such as Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, as part of their responsibility for the journalists' safety.

The Kompas daily, and RCTI and TVRI TV stations, said they all had taken out additional insurance cover for their journalists covering the Indonesian Military (TNI) operation against the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) in Aceh province.

"Life insurance, accident insurance and disability insurance are all included in the insurance cover we provide for our reporters when covering war or conflict zones. This is separate from the insurance cover for journalists when performing their everyday duties," said Taufik H. Mihardja, the deputy managing editor of Kompas.

Kompas' remuneration and welfare manager Purwanto said war insurance cover had been provided by his company since 1984.

"Since then, we have sent over 60 journalists to conflict and war zones," he said, but admitted he did not remember the exact locations of the conflicts.

For the war in Aceh, Purwanto said, his company had to pay insurance premiums to a local insurance firm of Rp 2.3 million (US$264,000) per month per journalist covering the war in the country's westernmost province.

In return, the insurance firm would pay compensation of Rp 75 million to the journalist's family through Kompas if he or she died while covering the war, according to Purwanto.

If the journalist lost the use of his right arm, he would be compensated to the tune of 70 percent of the Rp 75 million, he said, noting that there were many other clauses covering compensation for other injuries.

Taufik said Kompas had sent five journalists to cover the current war in Aceh.

Besides the extra insurance, the journalists covering the war in Aceh have also been provided with equipment to help protect them from gunshot wounds, he said.

Since the outbreak of the most recent hostilities in Aceh, a TVRI cameraman was mysteriously killed. His body was found on June 17.

Meanwhile, two RCTI journalists are currently being held hostage by GAM.

A number of journalists were also captured by GAM recently, but they were released several hours later following the arrival of TNI patrols.

The incidents have heightened fears over the safety of journalists covering the military operation in Aceh, which started on May 19.

RCTI report manager Denny Reksa and TVRI human resources director Yasirwan Uyun said that their companies had also taken out additional insurance cover.

"We have a special war insurance scheme that is separate from Jamsostek insurance and Jasa Raharja insurance," Denny said. "That's our standard procedure for covering war and conflict areas."

He refused, however, to disclose the amount of compensation that would be paid in respect of the death or injury of a journalist by the insurance firm.

Besides insurance for TV crews, RCTI has also taken out insurance on all TV equipment sent to Aceh, he said.

At present, RCTI has 10 journalists and crew members in Aceh, including the two missing journalists.