CPJ condemns journalist’s prison sentence

New York, December 23, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the conviction and sentencing of Risang Bima Wijaya, former general manager of the Yogyakarta daily Radar Jogja, on criminal defamation charges. A judge in Yogyakarta District Court, in central Java, sentenced Wijaya to nine months in prison on December 22 for publishing libelous articles.

The court found Wijaya guilty of publishing several articles in Radar Jogja alleging that Sumadi Martono Wonohito, general manager of Kedaulatan Rakyat daily newspaper, another publication in the region, had sexually harassed a staff member, according to local and international news reports.

Wijaya will appeal the sentence and remains free pending his appeal, according to CPJ sources.

“Recent convictions based on Indonesia’s outdated criminal libel laws are a serious threat to press freedom in that country,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “Civil statutes provide adequate redress for those who feel they have been libeled. Journalists should never face imprisonment for their work.”

Bambang Harymurti, chief editor of Tempo newsweekly, was among a group of journalists and media activists protesting outside the court, according to The Jakarta Post. Harymurti was himself sentenced in September to one year in prison on criminal defamation charges. He remains free pending appeal to the Supreme Court.

“Criminalization of the media will kill democracy,” Harymurti was quoted as telling the crowd on Wednesday. “It has to be put to a stop.”