A. Muh. Ibnu Aqil, Jakarta – The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) and the Legal Aid Institute for the Press (LBH Pers) have condemned the police for appointing a former journalist as a sub-precinct police chief in Blora, Central Java, and noted how it shows police infiltration to the press institution.
In a joint statement, AJI and LBH Pers criticized the appointment of First Insp. (Iptu) Umbaran Wibowo as it was revealed that Umbaran was a news contributor to public-television broadcaster TVRI while working as police intelligence officer in Blora regency.
"AJI views that this practice is an espionage that can sow public distrust in the Indonesian press," the statement read on Thursday.
On Monday, Blora Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Fahrurozi inaugurated five new sub-precinct police chiefs, one of which was Umbaran as the new Kradenan sub-precinct police chief.
However, according to Press Council data of certified journalists, Umbaran's name is listed as a journalist for public television broadcaster in Central Java TVRI Jateng with the rank of wartawan madya (intermediate journalist) according to a certificate in 2018.
Central Java Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. M. Iqbal Alqudusy said that Umbaran did not work as a journalist, but as a freelance TV contributor and was not a permanent employee. He also said Umbaran had worked as a police intelligence officer stationed in Blora until January 2021, Kompas reported.
Separately, National Police spokesperson Insp. Gen. Dedi Prasetyo said that the National Police were currently discussing the matter with the Central Java Police chief Insp. Gen. Ahmad Luthfi.
"We are currently discussing everything. As in the police system, police officers who were appointed into new posts should have gone through an assessment process," Dedi said on Wednesday as quoted by Antara.
AJI and LBH Pers also said that infiltration of a police officer into a press institution was a violation of Article 6 of the 1999 Press Law that stipulated the national-press role in fulfilling the people's right to information and Article 6 of Journalism Code of Ethics (KEJ) that said Indonesian journalists should not misuse their professions and receive bribes.
"In this case, Umbaran and the National Police have clearly misused journalism as a profession to take advantage of the information he gathered while working as a journalist," the groups said.
AJI and LBH Pers call on the government and the police to stop infiltrating an intelligence officer into media institutions as it disrupts press works and sows public distrust.
The groups also called on the Press Council to investigate the matter and to sanction Umbaran for ethics violation, improving its Journalist Competence Test (UKW) and making sure that no other government-security institutions replicated what the National Police had done.
The activists also called on press organizations and media companies to conduct more-thorough background checks and verification of their journalists.
Earlier this year, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an American independent non-governmental organization, called on the Indonesian authorities to investigate a series of incidents of harassment and intimidation against local journalists, identify and bring the relevant perpetrators to justice and work to better protect media members and their ability to report without fear of reprisal or violence.
"A recent rash of incidents of harassment and intimidation shows press freedom is under assault in Indonesia," Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative, said in a CPJ statement in July.
"President Joko ["Jokowi"] Widodo's government is obligated to protect and uphold media freedoms. Justice must be served or these types of press freedom-threatening actions and behaviors will continue."