Syafruddin, a correspondent for the Yogyakarta daily Bernas, died from injuries sustained during a beating by unidentified assailants. Two visitors to Syafruddin’s house beat him with a metal rod on August 13, inflicting serious injuries to his head and stomach. The assailants fled on a motorcycle immediately after the attack. Syafruddin, also known as Udin, was admitted to the intensive care unit of a Catholic hospital in Yogyakarta but never regained consciousness. He died in the hospital three days after the attack. Local sources speculated that Syafruddin’s death may have been related to his articles on land disputes and government corruption in Bantul, the Yogyakarta suburb that he covered for Bernas.
CPJ sent a letter to President Suharto on August 20 expressing alarm about the murder. The committee called on the Indonesian leader to order a complete investigation into Syafruddin’s death, as well as public disclosure of the investigation’s findings.
In October, Indonesia’s National Committee on Human Rights began an inquiry into Syafruddin’s death, and police in Jogyakarta arrested a suspect. However, according to press reports, Syafruddin’s widow claimed that the suspect, Dwi Sumadji, was not one of the men she saw kill her husband. She says he is a foil to deflect blame from the guilty parties.
In December, the Indonesian Journalist Association (PWI) told reporters that Syafruddin was beaten to death because of his stories about corruption, and not by a jealous husband as policed alleged shortly after the attack. PWI chairman Sofyan Lubis said that evidence and testimony at the trial of the alleged killer confirmed the association’s findings. The court concluded that there was insufficient evidence against Sumadji, and prosecutors dropped the charges against him. The ruling led to an investigation into the conduct of two police officers accused of forcing Sumadji to admit he killed Syafruddin because the reporter was having an affair with his wife.