Police in Indonesia have not only been accused of using excessive force against protesters taking part in student-led demonstrations against the government that have erupted in cities across the country in recent days, there are also serious allegations that they have used intimidation and violence against reporters attempting to cover those actions.
Journalist associations both domestic and international have condemned the police's use of such tactics, calling them a violation of human rights and basic press freedoms.
Indonesia's Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) held a press conference at the offices of the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta) yesterday to highlight several alleged instances of police violence and intimidation against members of the local media in the capital as well as other cities.
"In Jakarta, all of the cases of violence being perpetrated against journalists occurred because they recorded police brutality," AJI Indonesia advocacy chair Joni Aswira said as quoted by Kompas.
One of the incidents highlighted by AJI was police intimidation against a Kompas journalist who recorded what appears to be riot police beating an unarmed demonstrator at the Jakarta Convention Center (JCC) on Tuesday.
According to the account given by the reporter, police demanded she delete the footage from her phone but she managed to save it by shoving her phone in her underwear.
Joni said that, in addition to the Kompas reporter, journalists from IDN Times, Katadata, and Metro TV experienced similar incidents after recording footage of police brutality. Outside of Jakarta, there were also reports of violence against three journalists in Makassar as well as three other reporters in the city of Jayapura in Papua who were obstructed by authorities.
"We urge the police to arrest the perpetrators of violence against reporting journalists, both involving their members and groups of citizens, especially the violence committed by members of the National Police that is clearly recorded in videos taken by journalists," AJI Jakarta chairperson Asnil Bambani said in a written statement.
Separately, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) – an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide – released a statement yesterday specifically calling on Indonesian authorities to carry out "a thorough investigation into the police assaults of reporters covering protests in Makassar and hold those responsible to account".
The statement highlights the accusation that a riot police officer beat and kicked Muh Darwin Fatir, a reporter at Indonesian national news agency Antara, while he was covering the protest at Makassar's parliament building. You can read Antara's report on the incident here.
CPJ's statement also says: "At least two other journalists, Ishak Pasa'buan, of local outlet Makassar Today, and Muh Saiful Rania, of news website Inikata.com, were also beaten by police, according to a report by Makassar Today."
"We strongly urge Indonesian authorities to thoroughly and independently investigate the police beatings of journalists in Makassar, and to bring those responsible to justice," said CPJ's Senior Southeast Asia Representative Shawn Crispin. "Journalists must be free to report on civil unrest without fear of being targeted by authorities."
As reported by Sulsel Online, the South Sulawesi Police police acknowledged and apologized for the assault against Darwin and the other reporters, and said that an investigation into the officers allegedly involved would take place.