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Journalists Rally Against Police Violence

JAKARTA (JP): Dozens of reporters and photo journalists protested at National Police headquarters on Monday afternoon, condemning police violence against the press while covering recent street rallies in the capital.

The protesters, who came from, among other groups, the Independent Journalists Alliance (AJI), the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), andthe Indonesian Television Journalists Association, demanded that police personnel who had committed the violence be brought to justice.

"The press are protected by law in performing their jobs. But the police who are supposed to protect the press actually assaulted them," AJI's secretary general Didik Supriyanto told National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Saleh Saaf, who received the protesters.

The protest was in response to an incident in front of the United States Embassy on Friday in which several policemen attacked four press photographers and two reporters during an anti-Israel and anti-U.S. rally.

A similar incident also occurred on Sept. 28 during the trial of former President Soeharto at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry office in South Jakarta that left two reporters injured by police.

During the meeting with officer Saleh, the reporters urged police administration to instruct police personnel in proper procedures in handling street rallies to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

The press expressed their disappointment when Saleh said that the incidents were part of the risks of being a journalist.

"There's a difference between being beaten accidentally and intentionally," one of the protesters said, adding that those who had been beaten by police had shown the police their name tags, identifying them as reporters.

Pushed into a corner, Saleh, finally said that the police were sorry for the incidents.

"We apologize for the unfortunate incidents," Saleh said.

He explained that the police administration were trying to change the mental attitudes of its personnel, used to militaristic approaches in handling such problems.

"We have to keep in mind that the police have been indoctrinated for 32 to 35 years (by the military)," Saleh said.

"We have to change the way of thinking of our 200 thousands of personnel."

The National Police was separated from the military on July 1 this year, but total separation will not occur until Jan. 1 next year.

The protest was also attended by activists from the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), and the Indonesian LegalAid and Human Rights Association (PBHI). (jaw)

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