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For Immediate Release
16 March 1996

Vikram Parekh
(212) 465-1004 x109

Indonesian Journalist Marks First Year in Prison

CPJ Sends Petition to Indonesian President Demanding Freedom for Jailed Reporter

NEW YORK--- On March 16, 1996, the 365th day Indonesian journalist Ahmad Taufik will spend in prison, the Committee to Protect Journalists will deliver to President Suharto a petition, signed by more than 300 American journalists and media executives, demanding Taufik's release. Taufik heads Indonesia's only independent journalists' association and has been in jail since March 16, 1995, when he was arrested for publishing a magazine that was critical of President Suharto's regime.

"More than 300 leading American journalists and news media executives have signed appeals for Ahmad Taufik's release," said William A. Orme, Jr., CPJ's executive director. "We're sending their petitions to President Suharto today, on the first anniversary of Taufik's imprisonment, as a way of letting authorities in Jakarta know that his case remains a matter of grave concern to his colleagues in the United States."

Taufik, who is president of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), was convicted on Sept. 1 of violating Article 19 of the Indonesian Press Law, which prohibits the publication of an unlicensed newspaper or magazine, and Article 154 of the Indonesian Criminal Code, which bars the expression of "feelings of hostility, hatred or contempt toward the government." The charges stemmed from articles in AJI's monthly newsmagazine, Independen, that dealt with topics such as the succession to President Suharto and the personal wealth of the country's leaders. Taufik was sentenced to 32 months in prison--a term that was later increased to three years. Also convicted and sentenced on the same charges were another AJI member, Eko Maryadi, and the union's office assistant, Danang Wardoyo.

A journalist since 1986, Taufik formerly worked at the Bandung bureau of Tempo magazine. Tempo was one of three leading newsweeklies banned by the Suharto regime in June 1994, sparking nationwide demonstrations and international condemnation. The three publications shared a reputation for editorial independence and daring coverage of Indonesia's political and military affairs. Taufik and others who went on to form AJI played an instrumental role in marshaling public protests against the media bans, as well as subsequent violations of press freedom in Indonesia. In retaliation, authorities pressured Indonesian editors to dismiss AJI members from their staffs and repeatedly raided the union's offices.

CPJ honored Taufik with one of its prestigious International Press Freedom Awards at a ceremonial dinner in New York on December 6, 1995. Peter Arnett, Carl Bernstein, Wolf Blitzer, Phil Donahue, Max Frankel, Katharine Graham, Anthony Lewis, Walter Isaacson, James Ottaway, Dan Rather, Frank Rich, Yndamiro Restano, Gene Roberts, David Rohde, William Safire, Frank Sesno, Howard Stringer, Ted Turner, Mike Wallace and hundreds of others signed appeals for the journalists' release at the ceremony. The Committee presented the appeals to the Indonesian Embassy in Washington, D.C., in a January meeting with embassy officials and today sent the petitioners' names by courier to Suharto.

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