Criminalization of Press REJECTED. It is the right of free people to know.

July 31, 2007

We are eternally grateful to SEAPA for carrying on the fight despite the fact that in this region, many governments chose not to let their doings known by the people. This fight must be fought by all because it seems to clearly be the first right to uphold. Yet so many read and turn the page, hardly taking real time to grasp the fact that if not for those who fioght for their right to be heard, then they will soon lose other rights. Why do so many choose the easy way and let a handful take on entire governments, who use vague laws to squeeze those who fight for those who have it but take it for granted. But it is groups like SEAPA, Small but terrible sites like Malaysiakini in Malaysia, who have been arrested, had their computers seized, and harassed in so many ways it is amazing how imaginative the law enforcers are. But Malaysiakini, stand fast and know that for as long as you stand, many who are silent will not be for long. I was lucky enough to meet these warriors in Bangkok years ago, and have felt so proud to be standing with them in the fight against those who choose to kill the freedom of the press to hide their barbaric and illegal crimes against their own people. God Bless them.

Press release-Indonesia
30 July 2007
Source: Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI)

AJI rejects criminalization of press in Draft Bill on General
Elections

The following is a 24 July 2007 AJI press release:

Criminalization of the press should not be given any space in a
democratic country that respects the right to public information.

The basis of public rights to information and press freedom is
stipulated in Article 28F of the 1945 Constitution (Second
Amendment).

Press freedom is needed so that the press can play the role of
watchdog in monitoring the government and its workings. In all
democratic countries, the press has a significant role and is even
regarded as the fourth pillar in the system of democracy.
Therefore, every effort to bring journalists to criminal court must
be opposed because it is not in line with democratic values and may
lead to a crackdown on the right to public information.

AJI has found out that the Draft Bill on General Elections has
several articles that criminalizes news reports and the
journalistic profession.

For instance, Article 260 of the draft bill states: “Every
editor-in-chief of a print or electronic media who violates a ban
on campaign reports during a cooling-off period as stipulated by
Article 103 (3), will be sentenced to a prison term of between
three and six months and a fine of between one million and five
million rupiah.”

Article 103 (3) states: “The mass media, as stipulated in point
(1), are not allowed to publish news reports, advertisements,
footage, or other forms, of participants of elections which may
benefit and/or harm the participants of the elections during the
cooling-off period.”

This means journalists can be imprisoned or fined for their news
reports under Article 260. This is completely opposite of efforts
by the press community, including AJI, to scrap legal articles that
have the potential to criminalize news reports and journalists.

AJI believes that the criminalization of the press through Article
260 will undermine press freedom, which is guaranteed by the 1999
Law No. 40 on the Press and Article 28F of the 1945 Constitution
(Second Amendment).

AJI wishes to state that the press does not need to be regulated
under other legislations since the press already has the 1999 Law
No. 40 on the Press, which specifically regulates the press in
Indonesia.

AJI, therefore:

1. rejects any efforts to criminalize the press in any form. The
Draft Bill on General Elections, which regulates the organizing of
general elections, should not have rules that are contradictory to
democracy, such as allowing the press to be brought to criminal
court (criminalization)
2. urges the House of Representatives to scrap rules on the
criminalization of the press in the Draft Bill on General
Elections, particularly articles 260 and 103 (3).
3. demands all parties to make the 1999 Law No. 40 on the Press as
the regulation by which every dispute related to news reports is
settled and to make the Press Council the forum for press-related
disputes.

Heru Hendratmoko, President
Eko Maryadi, Coordinator of the Advocacy Division

————————————————————
Southeast Asian Press Alliance.
538/1 Samsen Rd., Dusit, Bangkok 10300.
Tel: 66-2-2435579, 66-2-2435373, Fax: 66-2-2448749

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