Sat, 15 May 2004

Journalist groups attack 'Trust' magazine verdict

Emphasizing a failure to use the Press Law in a libel trial against Trust financial and legal magazine, two journalists' organizations blasted on Friday the Central Jakarta District Court's verdict, which was issued on Thursday.

The Jakarta chapter of the Association of Independent Journalists said in a statement that the verdict, based on considerations relating to the Civil Code, was another abuse of justice and press freedom.

"The use of legislation other than Law No. 40/1999 on the press has become a new threat to press freedom ... the South Jakarta District Court earlier fined Tempo magazine US$1 million after it lost a libel case filed by businessman Tommy Winata.

"We demand the Supreme Court stipulate the use of the Press Law in cases related to the media and journalists," stated head of the organization's legal advocacy unit Ulin Na'im Yusron.

Trust was fined Rp 1 billion ($114,942) for discrediting businessman John Hamenda and his company PT Petindo Perkasa in an article titled, A gang of thieves hits state Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI) published in its Oct. 1-7, 2003, edition.

The article was made after the police arrested the businessman for his alleged involvement in a bogus credit scheme at the bank that caused Rp 1.7 trillion in state losses.

Hamenda had demanded Rp 2.22 trillion in compensation for material and nonmaterial losses.

Director of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) in Jakarta Lukas Luwarso sent an open letter to the court, criticizing the legal considerations used in the verdict.

"In contemporary journalism work, printing the full names of the subjects mentioned in an article is allowed. Meanwhile, obtaining a confidential document of a bank internal audit report in investigative reporting is legal if it is in the public interest." -- JP