Jakarta – The Indonesian Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) says that there is a repeated pattern to the violence committed by police against journalists covering protest actions.
AJI Chairperson Abdul Manan said based on the cases of violence that have occurred, the violence is usually committed when journalists are recording police committing violence against protesters.
"The police commit violence against journalists when they are recording police committing violence against protesters. Meaning, police don't want their crimes to be seen by the public", said Manan during a virtual press conference on Saturday October 10.
"And what they have been doing is intimidating journalists, damaging equipment and deleting data", he continued.
Manan said that the police violence against journalists that they have been dealing with violate existing laws. Manan gave the example of three journalists in Makassar, South Sulawesi, in 2019.
"We know that last year AJI Makassar and the LBH Pers [Legal Aid Institute for the Press] reported that three journalists were assaulted by police because they were covering the protests in September. There has still not been any update on the September reports", he said.
Another case was a reported to the Metro Jaya regional police in Jakarta in the same year. Manan said that two out of five reports on police violence against journalists were rejected by police and the other three, which were accepted, are still pending.
Looking at cases of violence against journalists which have still not been resolved, Manan said there is an impression that police are immune to the law.
Police violence against journalists also took place during the demonstrations against the recently enacted Omnibus Law on Job Creation which erupted around the country on Thursday October 8.
Based on data gathered from 38 cities throughout Indonesia, AJI recorded 28 journalists who experienced violence while covering the Omnibus Law protests. Manan added that Jakarta had the most cases.
There were eight cases of violence against journalists in Jakarta, six cases in the East Java capital of Surabaya and Samarinda in East Kalimantan, and three cases in the Central Java provincial capital of Semarang and Palu in Central Sulawesi.
A CNN Indonesia journalist in Jakarta named Thohirin and another CNN journalist named Farid Miftah in Surabaya were two of the victims.
Thohirin was assaulted by police while covering demonstrations near the Harmoni intersection in Central Jakarta on Thursday evening. Miftah was intimidated by police when riots broke out at the Negara Grahadi building in Surabaya.
"I was punched in the head, once maybe three times, I forget. My mobile phone was seized, opened, the picture gallery examined, then smashed on the ground. My press ID card was also taken then thrown away", said Thohirin relating the incident.
AJI advocacy division head Sasmito Madrim hopes that reports of violence against journalists covering the Omnibus Law protest can be resolved using the Press Law, specifically Article 18 of the law.
Paragraph 1 of the article reads, "Any person who intentionally commits violence which impedes or obstructs reporting shall be sentenced to a maximum of two years in prison or a maximum fine of 500 million rupiah".
National police public relations division head Inspector General Argo Yuwono did not responded to CNN Indonesia when sought for confirmation on the pattern of police violence against journalists.
Yuwono's only response was to refer to a statement by the national police headquarters on Friday. He said that police actually tried to protect journalists during the demonstrations. But when the situation became chaotic, he continued, police officers focus on protecting themselves.
"Certainly we have to respect and protect journalists, but because the situation was chaotic and anarchic, the officers also [had to] protect themselves", said Yuwono. (ndn/wis)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "AJI: Kekerasan Polisi ke Jurnalis untuk Sembunyikan Kejahatan".]