New York, January 21, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the guilty verdict handed down to Koran Tempo in a defamation suit brought by businessman Tomy Winata.
In a verdict delivered January 20, the South Jakarta District Court ordered Koran Tempo to pay US$1 million in damages to Tomy (who is referred to by his first name). The daily newspaper was also ordered to publish apologies for three consecutive days in newspapers and broadcast media, according to international news reports.
Koran Tempo’s lawyers have said they will appeal the verdict.
Tomy, founder of the Artha Graha Group, sued Koran Tempo chief editor Bambang Harymurti, reporter Dedy Kumiawan, and the PT Tempo Inti Media Harian company for defamation after the newspaper published a report in February 2003 saying that Tomy had applied to open a gambling den in South Sulawesi province. Tomy sought 21 billion rupiah (US$2.5 million) in damages, saying the report harmed his reputation as a businessman, according to the Jakarta Post.
“Such a draconian penalty directly threatens Koran Tempo’s ability to operate, and the excessive use of libel charges threatens all journalists in Indonesia,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper.
Tomy has filed a number of civil and criminal lawsuits against Koran Tempo and its sister publication, Tempo, for their reporting on his business activities. In March, Tomy launched a criminal defamation suit against Tempo, Harymurti, and reporter Ahmad Taufik over an article which cited allegations that Tomy stood to profit from a February fire that had destroyed the Tanah Abang textile market in the capital, Jakarta, and that he might be responsible for the blaze. The article also included a statement from Tomy denying the allegations. Hearings in the case are ongoing in the Central Jakarta District Court.
For more information about the other lawsuits against Tempo and Koran Tempo, click here www.cpj.org/news/2003/Indonesia02oct03na.html and www.cpj.org/protests/03ltrs/Indonesia10apr03pl.html.