Wed, 02 Apr 2003


24 x 2 lines:

AJI rebukes summoning of Kendari journalists over defamation case

The Jakarta Post Jakarta

The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) on Tuesday expressed its full support for journalists in Kendari, North Sulawesi, who have refused to comply with a police summons to testify in a defamation case involving the police and noted businessman Tomy Winata.

"The summons are ridiculous because a journalists' testimony is already provided in his report, the police only need to read it," the statement, signed by AJI chairwoman Ati Nurbaiti and secretary general Solahuddin, said here on Tuesday.

AJI also perceived a "conflict of interest", questioning how the police could be independent while it was processing a lawsuit by the local police chief.

It referred to clause 4 of the 1999 Press Law which rules that a journalist has the right to reject a summons to testify in relation to their reports.

The Kendari police district last week issued the summons to journalists Muhammad Aksa of the Kendari Ekspres daily newspaper and Rustam of Kendari Pos. Police also "visited" the home of Abdul Halim of the Media Indonesia daily newspaper, the AJI chapter of Kendari reported.

The summons were related to a defamation lawsuit filed by North Sulawesi Police Chief Brig. Gen. Tengku Ashikin Husein against a local organization, MARA, which had demanded his resignation.

MARA is the North Sulawesi Assembly of the People's Mandate.

The above journalists were among those who covered MARA's press conference of March 24. MARA chairman Hidayatullah had said that Ashikin should, among other things, resign because his earlier acknowledgement of contributions to the police force by Tomy smacked of being a form of upeti (tribute).

On Tuesday Antara reported that three MARA activists were questioned by police. They were Secretary General Ali Malik, Deputy Chairman M. Sain and treasurer Abdul Rajab.

Ashikin was earlier quoted as saying that Tomy had contributed motorcycles, while MARA accused the provincial police force of receiving more than Rp 1 billion (about US$100,000) from Tomy. MARA suggested this could persuade the police force to protect Tomy's interests in the province should he decide to invest there.

MARA said the demands that Ashikin should resign were addressed to National Police Chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar and House of Representatives Commission I in charge of public affairs.

AJI Kendari also reported earlier to the Press Council that the provincial police chief had visited Kendari Pos on March 27 where an editor told him that their journalist, Rustam, would not be allowed to testify. Ashikin then threatened to detain Rustam on the grounds of obstructing an investigation, the report said.