Seven attacks on journalists have already been registered during last night’s clashes alone. Many reporters were deliberately targeted while covering the rioting in the centre of Jakarta, in which at least seven people were killed. The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) thinks the toll of injured journalists will almost certainly rise as it continues to interview media personnel.
At the same time, the AJI reports that the authorities temporarily blocked access to the social network platforms WhatsApp and Facebook, and slowed the speed of Internet connections. WhatsApp was intermittently available again this morning.
The rioting began near the electoral commission’s headquarters on the evening of 21 May shortly after the commission confirmed President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s reelection victory. It was disputed by the supporters of the challenger, Prabowo Subianto, and the ensuing clashes with the police quickly escalated and became extremely violent.
“We call on all the protagonists, both protesters and police, to respect the work of the media by ending all acts of violence and intimidation against journalists,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.
“Allowing reporters to cover these events freely is the best way to enable the public to keep abreast of this conflict and not depend on rumours at this crucial moment for Indonesia democracy. Investigations must be carried out to identify and punish those responsible for the violence against reporters. And in his second term, President Jokowi must finally keep the promises he gave to defend press freedom.”
Disappointing first term
The journalists injured last night included CNN Indonesia reporter Budi Tanjung and his cameraman, identified only as Ryan, who were beaten over the head by police although they had clearly presented themselves as journalists. The police forced Tanjung to delete the videos he had recorded on his mobile phone and forced Ryan to delete all the footage he had shot with his camera.
According to the AJI’s initial information, another journalist identified only as Ryan who works for MNC Media was injured in an as yet unclear attack, as were a journalist with Radio Sindo Trijaya identified only as Fajar, Alinea.id news website reporter Fadli Mubarok, and two RTV journalists, reporter Intan Bedisa and cameraman Rahajeng Mutiara.
Jokowi’s election as president in 2014 initially raised many hopes but, at the end of his first year in office, RSF said he had failed to keep his promises as regards freedom of the press.
Indonesia is ranked 124th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.