Reporters Without Borders is concerned by a series of media freedom violations in Indonesia in the past few days. At the same time, it has learned of the death of Darma Sahlan, a journalist working for the weekly Monitor Medan, whose body was found in Lawe Two, in Aceh province (in the north of the island of Sumatra), on 5 February.
“We offer our condolences to Sahlan’s family and we urge the authorities to do everything possible to shed light on his death, and to not rule out the possibility that he was murdered in connection with his work,” Reporters Without Borders said. “They must also do what is necessary to guarantee the safety of journalists and freedom of information. We are very worried by the problems for journalists throughout the country and in West Papua in particular.”
Sahlan’s body was found in a ditch near his motorcycle. The cause of death is not clear. His wife told Serambi Indonesia that she thought he was murdered and that the body was then placed in the ditch where he was found. She said there were lacerations and other injuries on the body. She also reported that he had a heated phone conversation with someone a month ago about one of his stories.
The police are investigating his death. According to an autopsy, he sustained a blow to the head from a blunt object and injuries to the face. Skid marks were also found near the body.
Petr Zamecnik, a Czech journalist working for Fincentrum, was arrested on 8 February after photographing a pro-independence demonstration in Manokwari, in West Papua province. A local police spokesman said Zamecnik had entered the country on a tourist visa and claimed to be doing a report on places of interest to tourists but was unable to prove this. He has been transferred to the immigration authorities, who are to decide if he will be deported.
Andri Jufri, a young Indonesian journalist working for Kompas TV, was beaten up by members of a motorcycle gang as he was returning home on the evening of 5 February in Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi province. He sustained injuries to the face and body, and his glasses, helmet and motorcycle were damaged. The VIVAnews website said Makassar’s gangs do not like journalists covering the illegal motorcycle races they organize.
Blocking Twitter accounts
The minister of communication and information technologies has meanwhile announced that anonymous and “offensive” Twitter accounts will be blocked. He gave no details but Indonesia’s Information and Electronic Law provides for sanctions for blasphemy, fraud, threats, pornography and gambling. Indonesia’s 55 million Internet users take a great interest in social issues including corruption and sectarian violence.
Indonesia is ranked 146th out of 179 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. In the troubled West Papua region, at least two journalists were killed, five were kidnapped and 18 were attacked in 2011. Foreign journalists who want to visit the region must apply in advance to the information ministry for accreditation, which takes time, and they must agree to be accompanied if they obtain it. Only three were allowed to visit West Papua last year.