Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network) – Civil groups have reported that journalists were assaulted by law enforcement officers while covering protests against the highly controversial Job Creation Law on Thursday (Oct 7).
The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) reported on Friday that at least seven journalists were attacked by police officers while covering the protests in Jakarta. The number, however, could increase as the organisation has yet to look into every report.
"Although most journalists were wearing attributes to separate themselves from the protesters, they were still targeted by the police," AJI Jakarta chairman Asnil Bambani said in a statement on Friday.
Among the seven journalists was CNNIndonesia.com's Mr Tohirin, who said he was hit in the head and beaten by a police officer while reporting on the arrests of several protesters in Harmoni, Central Jakarta.
According to Mr Tohirin, the officer had asked whether he recorded the arrest on his cellphone, to which he had answered he had not. The officer, however, did not believe him and confiscated the cellphone.
When they found a picture of another officer putting a protester in a chokehold, the officers smashed the phone on the ground.
"I was interrogated and yelled at. They also hit my head, but luckily, I was wearing a helmet at the time," Mr Tohirin said, adding that he had shown his press identity card and uniform to the officers.
Mr Peter Rotti of Suara.com was also allegedly beaten by the police after he recorded a video of officers allegedly attacking a protester near a bus stop.
Meanwhile, merahputih.com journalist Ponco Sulaksono has reportedly gone missing after covering the demonstration near the National Monument (Monas) late on Thursday evening.
Several student press journalists were also reportedly apprehended by the police and taken to the Jakarta Police headquarters.
AJI Jakarta reported on Friday evening that the police had released all journalists arrested during the protests.
"We urge the National Police to investigate police violence against journalists while covering the protests. Meanwhile, editors-in-chief should also protect their journalists," said Mr Asnil.
In Palu, Central Sulawesi, three journalists were also reportedly assaulted by the police while covering a protest against the new law in Jalan Sam Ratulangi on Thursday.
They were Alsih Marselina and Adhy Rifaldi of sultengnews.com as well as kailipost.com's Windy.
"We told the police that we were journalists. We even showed our identity cards to them, but they hit us," said Ms Alsih. They have reported the incidents to the police's internal affairs division (Propam).
National Police spokesman Argo Yuwono said the violence against journalists during the protests had occurred because of the chaotic and unpredictable nature of the situations.
"We know that we're supposed to protect journalists. However, when the situation turns into chaos, police officers have to protect themselves," Inspector-General Argo was quoted by kompas.com as saying on Friday.
He said that the force was committed to investigating the incidents and urged journalists to show their identification and identify themselves to police officers prior covering the protests.