REPORTERS Without Borders today welcomed a Jakarta court’s decision to dismiss charges against Teguh Santosa, who had been facing a possible five-year prison sentence on charges of insulting Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. The judges decided there was insufficient evidence against him. The prosecutor said he would think it over before deciding whether to appeal.
07.09.06 – Website editor tells court posting Mohammed cartoons did not insult Islam
Reporters Without Borders today condemned journalist Teguh Santosa’s trial on charges of insulting Islam and the Prophet Mohammed, which began on 31 August and resumed yesterday, when Santosa testified in court in defence of his decision to post three controversial Mohammed cartoons on the website he edits, Rakyat Merdeka.
Santosa told the Jakarta court he posted the cartoons last February in order to supplement news reports on the continuing controversy about the cartoons, which originally appeared in a Danish newspaper. He said he afterwards consulted the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), an Indonesian press freedom organisation, and was told he had not committed any breach of journalistic ethics.
After he was briefly detained in July, Santosa said he also discussed the case with two senior Islamic representatives in Indonesia. One, Abubakar Baasyir, the president of the Assembly of Indonesian Mujahideen (MMI), assured him his action did not constitute an attack on Islam or the Prophet. The other, Habib Mohammad Riziq, the president of the Front for the Defenders of Islam (FPI), said that in his view the case was closed ever since Santosa withdrew the cartoons and issued an apology the day after posting them.
Santosa, who faces the possibility of a five-year prison sentence, told the judges: “I am deeply disturbed by this charge of insulting Islam, my own religion.” He also repeated several times that he was “just a journalist, and not a provocateur”. The next hearing is set for 13 September.
21.07.06 – Journalist freed but still facing five years in prison
Reporters Without Borders welcomes the release of Teguh Santosa, on 20 July 2006, following pressure, particularly from the Indonesian Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI). Teguh Santosa had been placed in custody the evening before for having publishing three of the controversial Mohammed cartoons in February this year. Government officials as well as the prosecutor general had expressed surprise that the journalist had been remanded in custody and blamed junior officials in the prosecutor’s office for the mistake. The journalist is still facing trial and is in danger of a five-year jail term for having “publicly expressed hostility and hatred to a religious group”. Reporters Without Borders has called for the charges to be dropped
20.07.06 – Online newspaper editor jailed for posting Mohammed cartoons last February
Reporters Without Borders today roundly condemned the arrest yesterday of Teguh Santosa, editor of the news website Rakyat Merdeka Online, for his decision on 2 February to post three of the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that were published by the Danish newspaper Jylland Posten last October. He is being held in a prison in Jakarta.
“Santosa did not reproduce these cartoons in order to provoke,” the press freedom organisation said. “He did it with the aim of providing information, and his apologies are evidence of this. We call for his immediate release and the withdrawal of the charges, which are completely unjustified.”
In response to a wave of protests, Santosa publicly apologised to Indonesian Muslims and removed the cartoons from his site the day after he posted them.
He was summoned yesterday to the Jakarta prosecutor’s office, where he was questioned for three hours and charged under articles 156 and 156 a of the criminal code with “publicly expressing a feeling of hostility and hatred towards a religious group.” After being threatened with more severe charges if he contested the accusation, he was taken to Jakarta’s Cipinang prison. He faces up to five years in prison.
The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) insisted that Santosa had no desire to provoke Muslims when he posted the cartoons, and that his sole aim was to provide his readers with background to the controversy they had caused.
He is the second Indonesian journalist to suffer consequences for reproducing the cartoons. David Da Silva, the editor of the Christian magazine Gloria, was fired by his employers in February.
Reporters Without Borders defends imprisoned journalists and press freedom throughout the world. It has nine national sections (Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland). It has representatives in Bangkok, London, New York, Tokyo and Washington. And it has more than 120 correspondents worldwide.
© Reporters Without Borders 2006