Riot police are seen in Jakarta, Indonesia, on April 11, 2022. Journalists have recently been harassed throughout Indonesia. (Reuters/Willy Kurniawan)

Indonesian journalists face wave of harassment and intimidation

Bangkok, July 21, 2022 – Indonesian authorities should investigate a series of incidents of harassment and intimidation against local journalists, identify and bring the relevant perpetrators to justice, and work to better protect media members and their ability to report without fear of reprisal or violence, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

“A recent rash of incidents of harassment and intimidation shows press freedom is under assault in Indonesia,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “President Joko Widodo’s government is obligated to protect and uphold media freedoms. Justice must be served or these types of press freedom-threatening actions and behaviors will continue.”

On July 7, a football fan at Maguwoharjo Stadium in the city of Yogyakarta groped the chest of a female journalist with the local news website, according to press reports and a statement released by AJI Indonesia, a local press freedom group.

The journalist, whose name was not disclosed, reported the assault to a guard at the stadium, who brought the fan to the facility’s media center, where stadium officials, the fan, and the journalist met for more than two hours, according to that statement.

The man initially denied the sexual assault, but later admitted it, stating that he was under the influence of alcohol; he then agreed to sign an apology statement to the journalist, according to the AJI report.

The journalist and her relatives later received intimidating messages from the perpetrator and others through direct messages on social media, according to that AJI statement, which said the journalist feels unsafe and anxious, especially when covering other matches or reporting in a crowd.

CPJ emailed’s editor requesting comment but did not immediately receive a response.

In a separate incident on July 9, in the eastern province of Maluku, an aide for provincial Governor Murad Ismail grabbed Molluca TV reporter Sofyan Muhammadiyah’s phone while he covered student demonstrations against the governor, according to an AJI statement on the incident and local news reports.

The aide, identified in that statement as I Ketut Ardana, deleted video footage that Muhammadiyah had recorded of Ismail threatening student protesters, according to that statement.

CPJ’s calls to the Maluku governor’s office for comment on the incident went unanswered. Molluca TV did not immediately reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment. CPJ was unable to find contact information for Ardana.

Also, on July 14, near the residence of the National Police Internal Affairs Division’s Chief Inspector General Ferdy Sambo, in Jakarta, three unidentified men dressed in black harassed one journalist working with CNN Indonesia and another with the local news website 20Detik while they covered the aftermath of a July 8 lethal shooting of a police officer, according to CNN Indonesia, other news reports, and a statement by AJI.

The men forcibly searched the journalists’ bags and seized their cellphones, deleted footage of an interview they had conducted, and ordered the journalists not to report near Sambo’s residence, according to those sources. Those reports did not identify the journalists by name. CNN Indonesia and 20Detik did not immediately respond to CPJ’s emailed requests for comment.

On July 15, the head of the National Police Public Relations Division, Inspector General Dedi Prasetyo, apologized for the incident and said officers involved would be dealt with firmly, according to local reports. CPJ’s emailed request to National Police headquarters for comment on the incident did not receive an immediate reply.