Missing journalist case should be priority, CPJ urges

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply troubled by the stalled police investigation into the disappearance of Elyuddin Telaumbanua, a journalist with the daily Berita Sore who was reported missing on the island of Nias off the northwestern coast of Sumatra on August 22.

Telaumbanua left his home in the northern town of Gunungsitoli on August 17 for a reporting trip, promising to return home after several days, according to his wife. An editor for Berita Sore told local reporters that Telaumbanua may have disappeared while reporting on a murder in the island's southern Teluk Daram district. Telaumbanua, 51, had also recently reported on criminal gangs, local corruption, and irregularities in recent local elections, sources told CPJ.

Ukuran Maruhawa, a journalist traveling home with Telaumbanua, said that the two were ambushed on August 22 by a group of six men riding three motorcycles who forcibly took Telaumbanua away, The Jakarta Post reported. Local journalists tell CPJ they fear Telaumbanua is dead. Citing unnamed witnesses, Berita Sore reported that the journalist was beaten and killed by gangsters on August 24.

In the weeks since Telaumbanua's disappearance, journalists and family members have protested to police and lawmakers, urging them to find those responsible for his disappearance. Hundreds of journalists gathered in Medan in northern Sumatra on September 15 to protest the ongoing delays in the investigation.

Police in North Sumatra announced on the following day that although they had identified a suspect, they were unable to arrest him because witnesses are unwilling to testify against the suspect out of fear for their lives, Berita Sore reported. A reward of 5 million rupiah (US$500) is also being offered by police to witnesses willing to testify in the case, but so far none have come forward, according to Berita Sore.
His wife, Elisa Sederhana Harahap, also met with local lawmakers and police in Medan on September 21 to ask officials for help in locating her husband.

Your Excellency, as you well know, a free press is a cornerstone of any democracy. Journalists must be allowed to safely do their jobs with the full protection of the law. The disappearance and possible murder of a journalist in connection with his work is the worst possible violation of press freedom. Police can and must work harder to investigate the disappearance of Elyuddin Telaumbanua, arrest those responsible, and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.

We join our colleagues in urging you to make solving the Telaumbanua case a priority. Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.


Sincerely,

Ann Cooper
Executive Director

September 27, 2005 12:00 PM ET |

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