Bangkok, October 4, 2016 – Indonesian military officials should take swift disciplinary action against soldiers responsible for assaulting a television journalist, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Soldiers assaulted and threatened Indonesian TV reporter Sony Misdananto while he covered a religious celebration, according to news reports.
Misdananto, a reporter for the local broadcaster NET TV, was filming a traffic accident near martial arts performers involved in an October 2 celebration of the Islamic New Year in the Madiun district of East Java when soldiers from the Indonesian army’s Yonif Para Raider 501 unit hit him, bruising his face, and destroyed his camera and memory card in an apparent attempt to suppress coverage of the accident, the Jakarta Globe reported.
Maduin Police Chief Senior Commander Susatyo Condro Purnomo apologized for the attack, according to news reports. Military Chief General Gatot Nurmantyo told reporters he would wait for the results of an internal investigation before deciding on how to handle the incident. Under Indonesia’s 1997 Law on Military Courts, military personnel cannot be tried in civilian courts unless charged with extreme rights violations, including genocide and crimes against humanity.
“The Indonesian military should swiftly punish the soldiers responsible for beating TV reporter Sony Misdananto and replace his camera,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “If military leaders are unable or unwilling to stop soldiers from assaulting journalists while they work, then lawmakers should subject them to the same laws and courts as govern civilians.”
Rights groups such as Human Rights Watch have reported that military prosecutors often treat soldiers leniently.
CPJ is investigating an August 15 assault by Air Force personnel against journalists covering a land eviction protest in Sari Rejo, Medan, North Sumatra. The Alliance of Independent Journalists Indonesia (AJI), an advocacy group representing some of the victims, told CPJ that soldiers attacked at least seven journalists and sexually assaulted a female reporter covering the protest. No soldiers have been charged or reprimanded for the violence, according to AJI.