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Another journalist killed because of their writing

SiaR - June 13, 1997

Jakarta – A Pos Makasar journalist Mohamad Sayuti known as Sandrego, died as a result of a severe beating in the sub-offices of the regency of Palopo, South Sulawasi, on Thursday June 12. The incident occurred after the journalist was confirming information about deforestation in the region.

Sandrego was a Pos Makasar correspondent, an Ujung Padang weekly publication, who lived in Palopo. He was in the middle of writing about deforestation and manipulation of reforestation funds in the Kaya sub-district, Palopo regency, when the calamity occurred. Apparently, Sandrego tried to confirmed the story by going directly to the house of the head of the Kaya sub-district, but instead he was viciously beaten and injured.

Sandrego then got on his motorbike to go home but was found dead during the journey. The medical examination showed that he died from being beaten by a hard instrument, said a journalist investigating Sandrego's death. Another witness said that they had heard screams when Sandrego was at the house of the sub-district head. So his death was not because of a traffic accident, said the witness.

According to a family member of Sandrego, the 40 year old journalist had received a phone threat the day before his death. The threat from an unknown caller was related to Sandrego's story about manipulation of development funds in Palopo.

This incident suggests an increasing level of violence against professional journalists. The death of Udin, a Bernas journalist, has to this day not been explained, Sandrego's death is a threat against the freedom of the press.

The Alliance of Independent Journalists (Aliansi Jurnalis Independen, AJI) is now carrying out an investigation into the death.

Translators notes:

Udin (Fuad Muhammad Syafruddin) was a journalist with the Yogyakarta based newspaper Bernas who died in August 1996 after being severely beaten in his home by unknown intruders. At the time he was investigating a corruption case involving the regent of Bantul (about 10 kilometers from Yogyakarta), Sri Rosa Sudarmo. Despite the fact that Sudarmo was implicated in the murder, he was never questioned by police. Instead Dwi Sumaji, an employee of an advertising company, was plied with drink, provided with a prostitute, and promised money by police officials in return for confessing to Udin's murder. On at least three occasions courts rejected the police case against Sumaji for lack of evidence.

[Translated by James Balowski]