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Six papers face censure over Bali reports


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SIX PAPERS FACE CENSURE OVER BALI REPORTS

JAKARTA: (Laksamana.Net/Pacific Media Watch): Chief of the Indonesian Defense Forces' Staff Command College, Lieutenant General Djaja Suparman, on Thursday (27/3/03) urged the Press Council to reprimand six newspapers that he says accused him of involvement in last year's Bali bombings.

The six publications are: The Jakarta Post, Jawa Pos, Bali Pos, Rakyat Merdeka, Pelita and Sumatra Ekspres.

Suparman, former chief of the Jakarta Military Command, said the newspapers had carried biased and slanderous articles linking him to the October 12 nightclub bombings that killed 202 people.

The general on Thursday (27/3/03) met with Press Council chairman Atmakusumah Sastraatmaja and executive director Lukas Suwarso.

"Mr Djaja said the news had swayed public opinion to think he was involved in the case, when in fact he was eventually proven not to have been involved," Suwarso was quoted as saying by online news portal detikcom.

He said the Press Council would discuss whether the six publications had violated the press code of ethics, and then issue a statement on the matter within one to two weeks.

In the days following the Bali blasts, some media commentators had speculated that rogue generals might have masterminded the attacks.

Wimar Witoelar, the jocular former spokesman of ex-president Abdurrahman Wahid, at the time said: "The plot is probably hatched by hardline military rogues. This is certainly an excuse for a military takeover unless it is pre-empted."

Reports said Suparman and former Jakarta Police chief Nugroho Jayusman had on October 12 flown to Bali several hours before the bombings and left the following day. Army chief General Ryamizard Ryacudu had also reportedly been in Bali at the time of the blasts.

At least one report suggested former East Timor militia commander Eurico Guterres was also on the resort island about the same time as the generals.

Indonesian Defense Forces commander General Endriartono Sutarto on October 31 denied the military was involved in the bombings. "I'm sure active armed forces members were not involved. I'm convinced there aren't any. [But] if we're talking about retired military officers then it's beyond my ability to control them," he said.

He claimed Suparman had been in Bali for a vacation, adding that Ryacudu was there for "health reasons".

The Bali bombings have since been blamed on regional terrorism network Jemaah Islamiyah, which has been linked to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda organization. Authorities have arrested 30 Indonesian Islamic radicals in connection with the attacks and trials are expected to start next month.

Suparman, who has served as chief of the Army's Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad) and East Java Military Command, has a reputation for involvement in covert activities, especially in the formation of civilian militia groups that have been used to attack pro-democracy activists.

+++niuswire

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