Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Media freedom regressed somewhat during 2004, with journalists increasingly subject to civil and criminal defamation suits, restrictions on reporting in Aceh, and assaults, including mob attacks on editorial offices. Defamation cases continued to be tried in court under the criminal code instead of under Press Law No. 40 of 1999, which provides a right of reply and the settlement of disputes via the Press Council. The most prominent case was Winata v. Tempo, brought to court by the powerful business tycoon Tomy Winata over an article published in March 2003 that implicated him in a fire at Jakarta's Southeast Asia textile market. Tempo's editor, Bambang Harymurti, was sentenced to a one-year jail term in September, although he remained free pending appeal at year's end. Other civil lawsuits filed by Winata against Tempo and its sister publication, Koran Tempo, resulted in steep monetary fines (in one case a fine of US$1 million) being leveled against the newspapers. Journalists associations subsequently formed the Committee Against Criminalization of the Press and rallied outside Indonesia's Supreme Court on September 27 to demand that the court sanction the Press Council as the body to settle disputes involving the media and that the press law be applied to defamation cases. The council did investigate similar libel cases during the year, finding four publications guilty of breaching the Indonesian journalists' Code of Ethics in October and ordering them to publish an apology to the minister who brought the complaint against them.
Bribery, aggravated by a seemingly corrupt judiciary, continues to spin the news agenda. Plans by the city of Jakarta to allocate 3.15 billion rupiah (US$338,710) in its 2005 budget for journalists covering city hall raised concerns of potential media malpractice and bribes to soften media reports against the city administration. The Alliance of Independent Journalists stated that the allocations contravened (a) Article 6d of the press law, which states that the national press has to supervise, criticize, and make corrections on anything related to public interests; and (b) Article 5 of the Code of Ethics, which states that journalists are prohibited from receiving bribes or abusing the privileges of their profession. Nevertheless, numerous privately owned print and broadcast outlets provide a variety of views, and some journalists continue to report aggressively on such issues as the conflict in Aceh or corruption. Access to foreign broadcasts and to the Internet is unrestricted.
Journalists face intimidation and occasional attacks at the hands of police and security forces, as well as thugs, Islamic extremist groups, rebels, and political activists. In April, an armed mob attacked the Sinar Indonesia Baru newspaper office in Medan, which disrupted production and reduced the next day's circulation to half of its normal 70,000 copies. The attack was sparked by articles that scrutinized the spread of gambling dens in the city. In June, the government expelled two members of the International Crisis Group, which had issued critical reports of military repression in Aceh and Papua. The Indonesian media at the time reported that the National Intelligence Agency was monitoring 20 nongovernmental organizations for damaging the country's reputation. Fears emerged of a return to the Suharto-era government clampdowns on critical reporting. The ability of the media to operate freely is particularly curtailed in the troubled province of Aceh. Foreign journalists' access to Aceh was restricted for most of the year-in September, the newly elected government of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced that it would continue the previous government's ban on foreign journalists visiting Aceh-and local reporters faced difficulties in covering the conflict while operating under martial law restrictions.