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Anies, Ganjar attend press freedom event, Prabowo absent

Jakarta Post - February 11, 2024

Jakarta (Agencies) – Two of three presidential contenders pledged to protect press freedom in Indonesia at a weekend event that frontrunner Prabowo Subianto didn't attend.

The event came just days ahead of the Feb. 14 poll, and as some observers raise concerns over an erosion of the country's hard-won democratic freedoms. Criticism over political interference has been levelled especially at outgoing President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who has given tacit support to Prabowo.

In the past, incumbents wrapping up their second term as president have remained neutral.

On the last day of campaigning, ex-Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan and ex-Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo signed the National Press Council's written declarations to uphold democracy and press freedom.

It was unclear if Prabowo, represented at the Saturday event by the head of his campaign team, signed the declaration. His campaign did not respond to queries on the matter.

Prabowo is projected by some opinion surveys to pip the 50 percent threshold needed to win the election in a single round.

The former special forces commander, who is making his third run at the presidency, has long faced allegations of rights abuses during his time in the military. He denies the accusations, but critics have questioned Prabowo's commitment to protecting human rights.

Prabowo's campaign chief, Rosan Roeslani, said at the event: "Freedom of the press is something that we absolutely must maintain and improve... because it is one of the spearheads of our democracy."

Rosan did not explain Prabowo's absence from the event.

Last week, Human Rights Watch said Prabowo did not respond to a questionnaire on key rights issues facing voters, while Anies and Ganjar submitted detailed answers.

"Two of the main political teams have done Indonesian voters a service by sharing their views," said Elaine Pearson, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

"Indonesian voters need to know (all candidates') positions on many important issues that affect them and the communities in which they live."

Polls project Subianto to win a majority from nearly 205 million Indonesians who will vote at more than 800,000 polling stations across the archipelago.

Rights groups and his former military bosses accuse Prabowo of ordering the abduction of democracy activists at the end of dictator Soeharto's rule in the late 1990s, but his new "cuddly grandpa" persona has won over younger voters.

Independent pollster Indikator Politik's survey showed Prabowo taking 51.8 percent of the vote with running mate Gibran.

Anies Baswedan at 24.1 percent while former Central Java governor Ganjar was in third at 19.6 percent ahead of the February 14 vote, the poll showed.

Less than five percent were undecided in the poll that surveyed 1,200 respondents between January 28 and February 4.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/indonesia/2024/02/11/anies-ganjar-attend-press-freedom-event-prabowo-absent.htm