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For immediate release: July 22, 1997
Contact: A. Lin Neuman (212) 465-1004 x140; [email protected]

Indonesian Journalists Released From Prison

New York, N.Y., July 22 -- Indonesian journalists Ahmad Taufik and Eko Mariyadi, both leaders of the officially unrecognized Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), were released on parole from a remote West Java prison on July 19.

Taufik and Mariyadi had served two-thirds of their sentences, which under Indonesian law gave them the right to parole. Both will be under police supervision and will be required to report to the Justice Ministry once a month until March 1999, according to Andreas Harsono of AJI.

“We are grateful for the release of these two independent journalists,” said William A. Orme, Jr., CPJ's executive director. "It is my hope that this signals a new willingness on the part of the Indonesian government to relax restrictions on press freedom.”

Held in separate prisons, the two men had been confined since their arrest in March 1995.

Taufik, the president of AJI, was sentenced to three years in prison in late 1995 after the publication of articles in AJI's Independen that discussed presidential succession and the wealth of President Suharto’s family. Taufik was convicted of violating Article 19 of the Indonesian press law, which prohibits the publication of an unlicensed newspaper or magazine, and Article 154 of the Criminal Code, which bars the expression of "feelings of hostility, hatred, or contempt toward the government." Eko Mariyadi was convicted and sentenced on the same charges.

Taufik told friends and colleagues shortly after his release that he was grateful to be out of prison. He expressed “deep appreciation and thanks” to CPJ for working on his behalf. “Now I want to relax,” he told colleagues when asked about his immediate plans.

Taufik co-founded AJI in 1994 after the Suharto regime banned three news weeklies--Tempo, DeTik, and Editor. When Taufik and other AJI members protested Suharto's press crackdown, government authorities pressured editors to fire AJI members. So far, 80 journalists have lost their jobs.

CPJ, a nonpartisan organization devoted to defending press freedom worldwide, initiated a campaign in 1995 demanding Taufik's release. Ahmad Taufik received CPJ's 1995 International Press Freedom Award for his efforts to establish an independent press in Indonesia. In 1996, CPJ marked Taufik's first year in prison with a petition signed by more than 300 American journalists and media executives calling for his release. The petition was presented to President Suharto.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization that documents and responds to violations of press freedom worldwide. CPJ’s Web site is http://www.cpj.org.

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