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Radio Journalist Recounts Beating By Police

Indonesian Observer 10th March 2000

JAKARTA (IO) — A journalist from MS Tri FM radio station, Evangel Kawatu, has released a statement that describes how Mobile Brigade (Brimob) Police brutally attacked him when he was covering a recent student demonstration near the residence of ex-president Soeharto.

"Police officers from Brimob attacked me, even though I repeatedly told them I was a journalist," Kawatu said in the statement released over the weekend. The statement was circulated by Jakarta chapter of Indonesian Broadcasting Practitioners Association (HPPI).

The attack on Kawatu took place on the afternoon of March 30, a Thursday, when members of the anti-Soeharto City Forum (Forkot) student group held a demonstration on Jalan Teuku Umar in Menteng, Central Jakarta, close to the detested ex-president’s opulent residence.

"At that time about 500 demonstrators came to the place in 10 buses. They pushed toward the police and a few minutes later a clash took place between the two groups," he said.

The journalist said his eyes had been stung by tear gas, so he went to a nearby house to wash his face. At that moment, several anti-riot police approached him.

"The officers suddenly attacked and tortured me, even though I told them that I was a journalist from a radio station," he said.

Kawatu suffered serious facial injuries after being belted with fists and rubber batons. The journalist said Brimob personnel forced him into a police truck and would have taken him away, had not other journalists recognized him and appealed to the officers to release him.

"I am very disappointed with those officers, as they do not respect the profession of journalists," he said.

HPPI Chairman M. Rafiq pointed out that attacks by the military and police on journalists and civilians are nothing new, but no legal action has even been taken against security personnel who beat up reporters.

"We should take appropriate action against these types of violations. Otherwise similar incidents will occur and more journalists will be injured," he said.

An extreme form of violence against a journalist took place in 1996, when a Yogyakarta reporter was attacked after writing articles that exposed local government corruption linked to Soeharto.

Fuad Muhammad Syafruddin, a reporter for the Bernas daily was attacked outside his house on August 13. He never regained consciousness and died three days later.

Police and the military never bothered to find the killers, but instead found a scapegoat who was eventually acquitted when a local court admitted there was no valid evidence against him.

Most legal aid groups and human rights activists believe the journalist had been killed at the behest of former Bantul Regent Sri Roso Sudarmo, who was involved in the corruption incidents.

Legal action has never been taken against Sri Roso, who is considered untouchable, due to his links to one of Soeharto’s relatives.


PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region. Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media, the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism, and Pactok Communications, in Sydney and Port Moresby.

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