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JAKARTA (IFJ/Pacific Media Watch): The aftermath of the tsunami tragedy in Aceh provides a "golden opportunity for solidarity, peace and press freedom" says the International Federation of Journalists, which is visting Indonesia in support of media staff affected by the disaster.

Speaking at a press conference in Jakarta today, Aidan White, General
Secretary of the IFJ, the world's largest journalists'group, said
journalists around the world had shown unprecedented solidarity with
colleagues in Indonesia and other areas.

"Almost 100,000 US dollars has been donated to our special appeal for
journalists and media staff affected and their families," said White. "It
is a magnificent show of sympathy and goodwill."

White presented its Indonesian affiliate, the Aliansi Jurnalis Independen
(AJI), with 30,000$ US for immediate humanitarian assistance to Aceh media
staff. About 20,000 $US had been sent in the first week after the disaster.

White said that the positive power of the world's media had been shown at
its best in coverage of the Aceh disaster. "Dramatic, emotional and highly
professional reporting of the tragedy has provoked global solidarity in
levels never seen before," he said. "Now it is the responsibility of the
government to take advantage of this goodwill and seize what is a golden
opportunity for solidarity, peace and press freedom."

He said that talk of controls over the movement of journalists and others
should be abandoned and efforts to find a negotiated solution to the dispute
in the region should be stepped up after decades of simmering conflict.

"The world has woken up to the reality of life in Aceh and this provides a
chance for peace and renewal," he said. "It also is an opportuntiy to put
press freedom and rights of media at the heart of future strategies in the
region." Last year the IFJ negotiated with GAM officials in Sweden as part
of the successful effort involving AJI to free Fery Santoro, the television
journalist held hostage in Aceh.

White said the IFJ has signed a project contract with AJI for trade union
development over the next three years. "We want to work closely with AJI to
help strengthen the rights of journalists in Indonesia," he said. "We are
supporting immediate efforts to rebuild the AJI structure for media support
in Aceh."

The IFJ says that support for its disaster appeal, which is also providing
help for journalists and media staff in Sri Lanka and other countries
affected, had come directly from journalists' unions in Australia, Greece,
the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Germany, Slovakia, Ireland, Sweden,
Norway, Japan, Malta, Croatia, the United States, Canada, the Netherlands,
and Thailand.

© Scoop Media

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