Journalist’s residence and newspaper offices seized by court

New York, October 1, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the court ordered seizure of the home of Goenawan Mohamad, the co-founder and senior editor of Tempo magazine, and the offices of Koran Tempo, Tempo‘s sister publication. Mohamad, a 1998 CPJ International Press Freedom Award recipient, and several of his colleagues, are being sued for libel by businessman Tomy Winata.

On September 29, bailiffs from the East Jakarta District Court delivered the preventative seizure order to Mohamad’s house. The order states that Mohamad, who was not home at the time, is permitted to continue living in the residence, but that he is prohibited from selling the property until a verdict is delivered in the libel case. Today, a similar court order was delivered to the offices of Koran Tempo.

According to sources at Tempo, Winata, who requested the court order, filed defamation charges against Mohamad after he made a statement in March calling Winata a “thug.” The statement was quoted in the March 12 edition of Koran Tempo. Winata has also filed criminal and civil charges against several other Tempo journalists following a Tempo article citing allegations that Winata may have stood to profit from a fire at a textile market in February, and that he may have been responsible for it.

According to Indonesian law, judges have the right to order the seizure of collateral pending a verdict in civil cases. However, Tempo‘s lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis has said that the seizure of Mohamad’s home and the Koran Tempo offices are “out of proportion” with the legal case, and that such orders have only been used in business disputes, not libel cases. Lubis plans to appeal the order.

In a related case, the Jakarta chapter of the Alliance for Independent Journalists (AJI) filed a suit that accuses the police of negligence for failing to stop an angry mob from attacking Tempo journalists and the magazine’s offices on March 8, 2003. The mob was protesting the articles linking Winata to the textile market fire. The case is currently being tried in the Central Jakarta District Court, and a verdict is expected on October 6.

For more information about Winata’s legal case against Tempo magazine, please see CPJ’s letter of April 10 and the alert of September 19.