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Indonesian activist faces six years' jail over banned magazine

Agence France Presse - February 6, 1997

Jakarta – An Indonesian activist caught with copies of a banned magazine of an independent journalists' group faces six years in jail for defaming the president, a report said Thursday.

The prosecutor at the South Jakarta district court, Dachamer Munthe, accused Andi Syahputra, 31, of intentionally defaming the head of state by possessing copies of the outlawed magazine Suara Independen, the Media Indonesia daily said.

Syahputra, an activist in several pro-democracy groups including the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), was arrested during a police raid on a printing house in October. He was carrying the master print of the magazine while police also found 3,000 copies of the magazine at the printing house, the report said.

Authorities banned Suara Independen in May saying it could discredit and spread distrust of the government. Munthe said the edition of Suara Independen carried several articles which called on political parties to nominate candidates other than President Suharto and challenged the president to a direct, democratic presidential election. Suharto, 75, has run unopposed in all five elections since he came to power in 1968. The owner of the printing house has also been detained. The court resumes on February 13.

The Indonesian press and journalists are strictly regulated by the government, which recognizes the state-sponsored Indonesian Journalists Association (PWI) as the sole organisation for journalists. The AJI was set up in August 1994 to promote press freedom in Indonesia following the banning of three leading publications in June that year.

Since then AJI members and those who signed the Sirnagalih Declaration which founded it, have been subject to government pressure through their editors. Some have been forced to resign from their jobs in leading publications, transferred out of editorial positions, or demoted. bs/jg/cf