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INDONESIA: Authorities cover up a journalist murder case

August 16, 2011

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-142-2011

16 August 2011

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INDONESIA: Authorities cover up a journalist murder case

ISSUES: Freedom of expression; police negligence; impunity; prosecution system
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Dear friends,

AHRC-UAC-142-2011IMAGE-1.pngThree police officers accused of the murder of journalist Ridwan Salamun have been acquitted. Ridwan Salamun was covering the communal clashes in Tual, Southeast Maluku in August last year as a camera man for SUN TV. The police officers witnessed the assault against Mr. Salamun but did nothing to prevent it, effectively consenting to the violence. In the subsequent examination, the prosecution refused to recognize Mr. Salamun's capacity as a journalist during the clash. The case is currently in cassation at the Supreme Court. It follows a series of killings of journalists in Indonesia that have not been resolved by the authorities. (photo: Ridwan Salamun, source: SUN TV)

CASE NARRATIVE:

According to information the AHRC received from KontraS the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence, on 21 August 2010, at around 07.30 am, Ridwan Salamun, a cameraman of SUN TV was covering the clash between the inhabitants of neighbouring villages, Mangon and Banda Eli in Tual, Southeast Maluku. A group of villagers did not welcome his attempt to cover the event and struck him on the neck, back and thighs with machetes. Police who were watching the incident stood by and did nothing to halt the attack or assist the victim. Mr. Salamun was severely wounded and lay on the road side for approximately two hours before being evacuated by the community leader, Jhon Tamher to Kare hospital. Mr. Salamun died one hour later from his injuries.

Without offering any proof, the Maluku regional police (Polda Maluku) determined Mr. Salamun to have been involved in the clash between the villagers. They halted the investigation against him after his death and only then declared him a victim. The police then arrested 3 villagers who were considered as suspects and charged them with murder, Hasan Tamange, Ibrahim Raharusun, and Sahar Renuat.

While he was examining the murder case, prosecutor Jafet Ohello ordered the police to alter the minutes of the examination and changed the charge to "persecution". Originally the three suspects were charged with 'committing murder' as mentioned in article 338 and 351 of the criminal code, with a maximum imprisonment of 15 years, but subsequently he changed the charge to “persecution” as mentioned in article 170 point 3 and article 351 point 3 (in conjunction with) article 55 criminal code, with maximum imprisonment of 12 years. Prosecutor Ohello only requested sentences of eight months.

As a journalist, Mr. Salamun was entitled to legal protection as a journalist while doing his job under the press law, Prosecutor Ohello did not mentioned these rights in the charge. No proof that Mr. Salamun was performing his official duties as a journalist were provided and the only witness who was able to affirm Mr. Salamun's official capacity at the incident was not permitted by the public prosecutor to give testimony in the court. The Attorney General, Basrief Arief stated that despite various procedural problems that the process had been in accordance with law. AG Arief alleged that Mr. Salamun was not acting as a journalist at the time of incident but rather directed the mob to attack one another. The police falsely alleged that no camera was found with Mr. Salamun making him an ordinary citizen at the incident and not a member of the press.

On 9 March 2011, the Tual District Court declared the verdict and acquitted the accused because their guilt had not been legally and convincingly proven in Mr. Salamun's death.

It was only 21 days after the verdict was declared that it transpired that Mr. Salamun's handy cam had been found and in fact, had been in the custody of the Criminal Investigation Division (direskrim). It had been in the possession of Senior Police Commissioner (Kombes) Jhoni Siahaan from the Maluku Regional police since the beginning of the investigation. Until now this case has been examined in cassation at the Supreme Court. There is now serious concern that in this instance it will be covered up again and no effective remedies will be given to the victim's family.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Based on the data the AHRC received from the Press Legal Aid Institute (LBH Pers), the killing of journalists is not a rare event in Indonesia and the number of cases appears to have increased over the last years. In the post-Soeharto era since 1998, the importance of the freedom of the press had been recognized by law. Despite this several journalists have been killed. On 24 August 2005, in Nias, Elyuddin Telaumbanua, the Berita Sore journalist was abducted and is believed to have been killed. His body was recovered. Herlianto, a Radar Surabaya journalist was killed in Probolinggo, East Java on 29 May 2006. A similar incident took place the Padangbai port in Bali on 16 Februrary 2009, when AA. Gde. Bagus Narendra Prabangsa, the Radar Bali journalist was killed.

In 2010 alone four journalists were killed or found dead in addition to Ridwan Salamun. This includes the death of Alfrest Mirulewan from a journalist from Mingguan Pelangi at Wonreli Port, Maluku in December 2010, Ardiansyah Matra'is from Merauke TV in Merauke on 30 July 2010, Muhammad Syaiffullah from Kompas Biro Kalimantan in East Kalimantan on 26 July 2010, and Asep Pajario from Sriwijaya Post in Palembang on 14 September 2010. The increasing number of cases clearly indicates the deterioration in the protection of the freedom of the press in Indonesia. Cases of attacks against journalists including killings rarely reach the court and when they are heard most of the judges declare acquittals.

Article 8 Law No. 40 of 1999 concerning the press states that journalists are entitled to special legal protection during their work while carrying out their functions, rights, obligations, and role. Article 18 point 1 of that law penalises any hampering or obstructive action against the freedom of the press. The law though does not sufficiently cover the necessary protection. Justice authorities cover up the nature of the cases by failing to invoke the press law in cases were journalists are victimised by the authorities.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write letters to the authorities listed below asking them to intervene in the case immediately. The procedural irregularities by the authorities have to be investigated and the persons responsible punished and disciplined. The role of the police officers that consented to the killing of Mr. Salamun has to be investigated and appropriate charges laid against them which acknowledge the special protection the press is entitled to. An investigation against Senior Police Commission Jhoni Sahaan for the obstruction of justice in this case of murder of a journalist has to be investigated.

The AHRC is sending letters on this case to the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, calling for a strong intervention.

To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

INDONESIA: Authorities cover up a journalist murder case

Name of victim: Ridwan Salamun
Alleged perpetrators: ProsecutorJafet Ohello, Senior Police Commissioner Jhoni Siahaan, local police officers
Date of incident: 21 August 2010
Place of incident: Tual, Southeast Maluku

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the acquittal of three accused of the murder of Ridwan Salamun, a journalist who was performing his duties covering communal clashes in Tual, Southeast Maluku.

According to the information that I have received from the AHRC, Ridwan Salamun, a cameraman of SUN TV was covering the clash between the inhabitants of neighbouring villages, Mangon and Banda Eli in Tual, Southeast Maluku. A group of villagers did not welcome his attempt to cover the event and struck him on the neck, back and thighs with machetes. Police who were watching the incident stood by and did nothing to halt the attack or assist the victim. Mr. Salamun was severely wounded and lay on the road side for approximately two hours before being evacuated by the community leader, Jhon Tamher to Kare hospital. Mr. Salamun died one hour later from his injuries.

I have learned that the Maluku regional police determined three suspects: Hasan Tamange, Ibrahim Raharusun, and Sahar Renuat to be responsible for his death. While he was examining this case, Jafet Ohello, the prosecutor changed the minutes of the examination and the charge. Originally the three suspects were charged with 'committing murder' as mentioned in article 338 and 351 of the criminal code, with a maximum imprisonment of 15 years, but subsequently he changed the charge to “persecution” as mentioned in article 170 point 3 and article 351 point 3 (in conjunction with) article 55 criminal code, with maximum imprisonment of 12 years. However, Prosecutor Ohello only requested sentences of eight months

Furthermore, Mr. Ohello never mentioned the rights of the press in the charge. The public prosecutor did not permit the only witness who was able to affirm that Mr. Salamun was performing his duties to give his testimony in the court.. The Attorney General, Basrief Arief stated that the process has been in accordance with the law because when the incident happened Mr. Salamun was not performing his duties as a journalist but rather directing the mob to attack one another. One of the reasons for this argument was that the handy cam, which was used by the victim, could not be found by the police. Therefore, the court decided that Mr. Salamun was an ordinary citizen and not a member of the press.

I feel a sense of outrage that on 9 March 2011, Tual district court acquitted the three accused sating that their guilt had not been legally and convincingly proven.

I am also aware that it was only 21 days after the verdict was declared that it transpired that Mr. Salamun's handy cam had been found and in fact, had been in the custody of the Criminal Investigation Division (direskrim). It had been in the possession of Senior Police Commissioner (Kombes) Jhoni Siahaan from the Maluku Regional police since the beginning of the investigation. Until now this case has been examined in cassation at the Supreme Court. There is now serious concern that in this instance it will be covered up again and no effective remedies will be given to the victim's family.

The killing of journalists is not a rare event in Indonesia and the number of cases appears to have increased over the last years. In the post-Soeharto era since 1998, the importance of the freedom of the press had been recognized by law. Despite this several journalists have been killed. On 24 August 2005, in Nias, Elyuddin Telaumbanua, the Berita Sore journalist was abducted and is believed to have been killed. His body was recovered. Herlianto, a Radar Surabaya journalist was killed in Probolinggo, East Java on 29 May 2006. A similar incident took place the Padangbai port in Bali on 16 Februrary 2009, when AA. Gde. Bagus Narendra Prabangsa, the Radar Bali journalist was killed.

In 2010 alone four journalists were killed or found dead in addition to Ridwan Salamun. This includes the death of Alfrest Mirulewan from a journalist from Mingguan Pelangi at Wonreli Port, Maluku in December 2010, Ardiansyah Matra'is from Merauke TV in Merauke on 30 July 2010, Muhammad Syaiffullah from Kompas Biro Kalimantan in East Kalimantan on 26 July 2010, and Asep Pajario from Sriwijaya Post in Palembang on 14 September 2010. The increasing number of cases clearly indicates the deterioration in the protection of the freedom of the press in Indonesia. Cases of attacks against journalists including killings rarely reach the court and when they are heard most of the judges declare acquittals.

I therefore request:
1. The principle of fair trial as required by international and national law must be applied in the cassation's process. The special rights of the press must be recognized;
2. That justifiable punishment is given to the perpetrators and that these are in accordance with applicable international human rights norms;
3. The investigation of this trial process, especially against Senior Police Commissioner Jhoni Sahaan for the obstruction of justice in the murder of a journalist is ensured;
4. The victim's family receives an effective remedy including reparation and reforms to support non-repetition.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
The President of Indonesia
Jl. Veteran No. 16
Jakarta Pusat
INDONESIA
Tel: +62 21 3863777, 3503088.
Fax: +62 21 3442223

2. Office of the Anti Judicial Mafia Task Force (Satgas)
PO Box 9949
Jakarta 10 000
INDONESIA

3. Chief Justice of the Republic of Indonesia
Mahkamah Agung
Jalan Medan Merdeka Utara No.9-13, Jakarta 10110
INDONESIA
Tel: +62 21 3843557 -3453348
Fax: +62 21 383541

4. Mr. Basrief Arief
The Attorney General of Indonesia
Jl. Sultan Hasanudin No. 1
Kebayoran Baru, Jakarta 12160
INDONESIA
Tel: +62 21 7221337, 7397602.
Fax: + 62 21 7250213

5. Head of Prosecutor's Commissioner of Indonesia
Jl. Rambai No. 1 A, Kebayoran Baru,
South Jakarta
INDONESIA
Tel: +62 21 7264253
Fax: +62 21 7265308
Email: pengaduan@komisi-kejaksaan.go.id

6. Mr. Marwan Effendy
Jaksa Agung Muda Pengawasan Republik Indonesia (Solicitor General on Supervision of Indonesia)
Jl. Sultan Hasanudin No. 1
Kebayoran Baru, Jakarta 12160
INDONESIA
Tel: +62 21 7221337, 7397602.
Fax: + 62 21 7250213

7. Chairman of the National Police Commission (Kompolnas)
Jl. Tirtayasa VII No. 20 Komplek PTIK Jakarta Selatan
INDONESIA
Tel: +62 21 739 2352
Fax: +62 21 739 2317

8. General of Police Timur Pradopo
Chief of Indonesian National Police
Markas Besar Kepolisian Indonesia
Jl. Trunojoyo No. 3
Kebayoran Baru
South Jakarta 12110
INDONESIA
Tel: +62 21 3848537, 7260306, 7218010
Fax: +62 21 7220669
Email: info@polri.go.id

9. Head of Division of Profession and Security of Indonesian Police
Markas Besar Kepolisian Indonesia
Jl. Trunojoyo No. 3
Kebayoran Baru
South Jakarta 12110
INDONESIA
Tel: +62 21 3848537, 7260306, 7218010
Fax: +62 21 7220669
Email: info@polri.go.id


Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)