Jakarta – Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Chairperson Abdul Manan predicts that violence against journalists by security forces will still represents a real threat under the next administration of president and vice president elect Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Ma'ruf Amin.
"I think that violence by the state will be a threat that is very real indeed so journalists must be more careful", said Manan during a discussion titled "Civil Society Projections on the Situation in Indonesia over the Next 5 Years" at the Upnormal Coffee Roasters in Jakarta on Tuesday October 15.
He reflected on a number of cases of alleged intimidation and violence committed by police against journalists which have happened when they are doing their job in the field. He gave as an example the post-election riots in Jakarta in May and the student demonstrations on September 24.
According to Manan, security forces committed this violence against journalists reporting the demonstrations so that the public would not find out about allegations of violence against students and civil society activists.
Yet, journalists are responsible for carrying out their function of providing information to the public.
"Committing violence against civilians is a crime right, a legal violation. I think it is a serious one. That is the heavy side of what is being committed by police", he said.
If these practices are allowed to continue and if no firm action is taken against security personnel who commit violence against journalists, this will threaten press freedom.
"Second, on the issue of regulations covering the media which I think if you look at current developments, such as the RKUHP [Draft Criminal Code], which has already been completed but it's enactment postponed, they don't have the spirit of reformasi. And on the issue of press freedom there are 10 articles [in the RKUUP] which we have noted as not supportive of press freedom", he said.
Manan gave the example of the articles on insulting the president and vice president in the Draft Criminal Code as well as the articles on disseminating fake news, blasphemy, insulting state institutions and defamation.
"Meaning the impression is that it will not improve criminal law but instead make criminal law even less supportive of press freedom", he said.
Manan also asked all journalists to be more careful in looking after their safety when on duty.
In addition to this, he said, journalists must be more careful in the digital word because they are prone to intimidation and persecution on social media by certain parties.
"They can also be attacked economically. This will become growing a trend. It's worse than that which was experienced by Tempo which was attacked economically, then accused of being incompetent. This is what is happening right now and it will become a trend that will happen more frequently in the future", he said.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "AJI: Kekerasan terhadap Jurnalis Jadi Ancaman Nyata pada Era Jokowi-Ma'ruf Amin".]