Magazine found guilty of libel

New York, March 18, 2004 —The Central Jakarta District Court today ordered Tempo magazine to publicly apologize and to pay a fine of 500 million rupiah (US$59,000) in a case filed by prominent businessman Tomy Winata.

“This verdict, coming on the heels of a criminal defamation suit filed by Tomy Winata, sends a chilling message to the press in Indonesia,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper.

The case stems from an article, titled “Ada Tomy in Tenebang?” (Is there Tomy in Tanah Abang?) published in the March 3, 2003 issue of Tempo. The article cited allegations that Tomy (who is commonly referred to by his first name) stood to profit from a February 2003 fire that destroyed the Tanah Abang textile market in the capital, Jakarta, and that he might be responsible for the blaze. Tomy filed libel charges against PT Tempo Inti Media; chief editor Bambang Harymurti; chief deputy editor Toriq Hadad; reporters Ahmad Taufik, Bernarda Rurit, and Cahyo Junaidi; publisher Fikri Jufri and corporate director Zulkifli Lubis, according to a Tempo report.

The article also included a statement from Tomy denying the allegations. Nevertheless, the presiding judge stated today that, “Tempo failed to find the truth by covering both sides before publishing the article,” said a report in the Jakarta Post.

Tomy Winata, founder of the Artha Graha Group, has filed a number of lawsuits against Tempo magazine and its journalists, including a criminal defamation suit against Tempo, Harymurti, and Taufik for the “Ada Tomy in Tenebang?” article. Hearings in that case are ongoing.

In a verdict delivered January 20, 2004, the South Jakarta District Court ordered Tempo‘s sister publication, Koran Tempo, to pay US$1 million in damages to Tomy. Tomy sued Harymurti, who is also chief editor of Koran Tempo, 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.

For more information about Tomy’s legal cases against Tempo magazine, see the news alerts of January 21, 2004, and April 10, 2003.