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Indonesia: Protests Mount Over Slain Cameraman

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By Tiarma Siboro

JAKARTA (JP/Pacific Media Watch): Press defenders voiced strong protests over the killing of Banda Aceh-based TVRI cameraman Jamaluddin, 30, saying that the Aceh martial law administration should protect journalists, instead of restricting news seekers from covering the ongoing war in the troubled province of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam.

Press Council chairman Atmakusumah Astraatmadja called on the police to hold a thorough investigation into the killing and disclose the results of who should be held responsible for the murder, whether they be government troops or Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels.

"Jamaluddin's murder remains unclear. Why he had to face this fate ... Some allege that he was involved in the secessionist movement by collecting money from locals. Is that true? The police must answer these questions," Atmakusumah told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

Jamaluddin was found dead last Tuesday at Kreung Cut village, Darussalam district, Banda Aceh, after being missing for a month.

Jamaluddin was the first journalist killed in Aceh since the government declared martial law in the oil-rich province on May 19 to crush rebel who have been fighting for independence since 1976. Rights activists estimate that over 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed, kidnapped or tortured since then.

"Reporting from Aceh has put journalists at risk. But the restrictions imposed by the military authorities as well as the lack of protection for journalists have added to the problems they face," Atmakusumah said.

"If journalists are in danger while doing their job, I can only hope that rights activists, including the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), will be able to control what's going on there," he added.

A similar protest was also voiced by the Indonesian Journalists Alliance (AJI).

AJI urged the security authorities to investigate the death of Jamaluddin considering that Jamaluddin as well as his fellow journalists had been the targets of violence in Aceh.

In a letter addressed to President Megawati Soekarnoputri, a copy of which was made available to the Post on Friday, the AJI also disclosed cases that showed how journalists have been intimidated and prevented from doing their work.

Such restrictions include an obligation for news seekers to disclose sources to the military despite the journalist's code of ethics, which requires a journalist to protect his sources. Journalists are also required to make documents obtained in the province available to the military

Earlier, Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto said he had ordered the Aceh martial law administrator to conduct a thorough investigation into the death of Jamaluddin.



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 based in Sydney, Journalism Studies at the University of PNG (UPNG), the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (ACIJ), Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, and Community Communications Online (c2o).

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