Fri, 05 Aug 1994

Press protesters vent anger at their association

JAKARTA (JP): Around 100 protesting journalists and activists yesterday vented their anger at the Association of Indonesian Journalists (PWI) for its failure to represent the displaced reporters and employees of Tempo, DeTIK and Editor news magazines.

The protesters, mostly journalists from other publications, turned up at PWI's headquarters in the Press Council building demanding that the association make good on its promise to discuss the closure of the three magazines with the government.

They reminded the organization that PWI Secretary General Parni Hadi, during a meeting on July 5, had promised to convey the journalists' demands to Minister of Information Harmoko.

Parni, who is the chief editor of the Republika daily newspaper, was not in the building yesterday, but PWI chairman Sofyan Lubis was there to answer the protesters' queries.

Sofyan, who is also chief editor of Pos Kota daily newspaper, agreed to meet with eight representatives of the protesters.

He told them that PWI had not been able to see Harmoko to discuss their demands, Meirizal Zulkarnain, the spokesman of the delegation, said after the meeting.

Sofyan also stressed to the delegation that PWI is very concerned with the return of the three news magazines.

Tempo lost its publishing license because it repeatedly ignored government warnings about its editorial content. DeTIK and Editor lost theirs because they violated the terms of their licenses.

All three are unlikely to regain their licenses but talks are underway between the former employees and prospective investors to explore the likelihood of obtaining new licenses.

Meirizal said he also discussed the need to change the way the press industry is regulated in order to avoid a repetition of such bans with Sofyan. The PWI responded that such changes needed "process", Meirizal reported.

The journalists, most wearing black attire as an expression of condolence over the demise of the three magazines, were not content with the response of the PWI to their demands.

"Dissolve PWI", "Burn PWI membership cards," they shouted.

The demonstrators had apparently anticipated the response. Immediately after the meeting with Sofyan, they unfurled a banner suggesting that PWI is a tool of the government.

They also announced their intention of forming a new organization to represent journalists.


A number of activists joined in the protest as an expression of solidarity.

One of them was Muchtar Pakpahan, chairman of the SBSI union, who offered journalists the opportunity to join his organization. He promised them that the union will fight on their behalf.

What started as a peaceful action threatened to turn violent at one point when one of the protesters kicked a car that was carrying Jakob Oetama, chief editor of Kompas daily, as it was leaving the Press Council area.

Other protesters quickly restrained him, reminding him to contain his emotion and appealing to all protesters to maintain peace and order.

Although the demonstration proceeded peacefully under the vigilant eyes of police at the PWI office, there were reports that some of the protesters were harassed after they dispersed.

The incident apparently occurred a few meters away, near the Sarinah Building on Jl. Thamrin.

Police confirmed that they detained two protesters but both were released last night.

The Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) has already sent a letter of protest to the Armed Forces over that encounter. (als/anr/jsk)