Sunday, January 29, 2012

Indonesia Falls 29 Places in World Index

Press freedom has declined again in Indonesia over the past year, according to Reporters Without Borders, which released its 10th annual press freedom index on Wednesday.

Pointing largely to the killing, kidnapping, and assault cases in West Papua last year, the non-profit organization has ranked Indonesia 146th for 2011, a drop of 29 places from 117th in 2010. In 2009, Indonesia ranked 100th.

In addition to its rank, Indonesia’s overall score has also gotten progressively worse, from 28.50 in 2009 to 35.83 in 2010 and 68.00 last year.

The organization said an army crackdown in West Papua, where at least two journalists were killed, five kidnapped and 18 assaulted in 2011, was the main reason for the country’s fall to the 146th spot in the index.

“A corrupt judiciary that is too easily influenced by politicians and pressure groups and government attempts to control the media and Internet have prevented the development of a freer press,” Reporters Without Borders said in its press release.

The chairman of the Legal Aid Foundation for the Press (LBH Pers), Hendrayana, said the Reporters Without Borders index was in line with LBH Pers’s own findings.

He said two journalists in Manokwari, West Papua, last year received death threats in text messages from a district attorney who demanded that they stop reporting on him.

Hendrayana said LBH Pers recorded 96 cases involving the intimidation of journalists in 2011, including both physical and non-physical assaults.

The military and police are alleged to have been behind most of the physical assaults.

Hendrayana said several cases, including killings, had been left unresolved.

He cited the case of Ridwan Salamun, a cameraman for Sun TV who was hacked to death while covering an intervillage clash in Tual district, Maluku, in August 2010. He also cited Alfrets Mirulewan, editor of the Maluku newspaper Pelangi Weekly, who was found dead on a beach on Kisar Island that year.

Eko Maryadi, chairman of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), emphasized the poor record of law enforcement when it came to journalists. From 1996 to 2010, 10 journalists were murdered, he said, but only one case had been resolved.

He said the AJI had predicted the country’s drop in the latest Reporters Without Borders index and had written about it in its year-end notes.

It is disappointing, Hendrayana said, because in terms of story coverage, press freedom in Indonesia is doing fine. However, after journalists publish their reports, he said, nobody can guarantee their safety.

“Journalists are continuously facing threats in Indonesia,” he said. “The government and law enforcement institutions seem to turn a blind eye to this issue. We should urge law enforcers to resolve these cases of killing and assault targeting journalists.”

Reporters Without Borders also noted the rise of violence and censorship in Asia.

It stated in its release that violence and impunity persist in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Philippines, and it noted more repression in Sri Lanka, Vietnam and China.