Media Watchdogs Welcome Rakyat Merdeka Ruling

FOLLOWING are statements by the International Federation of Journalists and Reporters Without Borders on South Jakarta District Court’s rejection of a defamation lawsuit against Rakyat Merdeka editor Teguh Santosa, who was accused of insulting Islam.

IFJ Calls For Rejection Of All Criminal Charges Against Editor In Indonesia
21/09/2006 – The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has again called for the dismissal of all charges against editor Teguh Santosa after, in a preliminary decision on September 20, the South Jakarta District Court ruled Teguh had committed a general crime and would still be tried under the Criminal Code for publishing the now-famous Danish cartoons.

“It is totally unfathomable that the publishing of a cartoon can be seen as a general crime,” IFJ President Christopher Warren said.

According to IFJ affiliate, the Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI), the courts rejected the prosecutor’s initial indictment accusing him of violating Article 156a of the Criminal Code on Insult Against Religion, however the ruling still dismissed the use of the civil Law of the Press 40/1999, stating Teguh had committed a general crime.

“While the IFJ welcomes the rejection of the defamation element of the indictment, the IFJ strongly urges the courts to go all the way and reject all criminal charges against Teguh,” Warren said.

Teguh, executive editor of Rakyat Merdeka Online, was detained on July 19, after complaints he republished cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Mohammad, which had originally been published by Danish newspaper Jylland Posten in October 2005.

The Rakyat Merdeka Online reportedly removed the cartoons from its site after receiving complaints and the next day published an open apology to those people it had offended.

“This is clearly an issue for the press council, and the IFJ strongly supports AJI in their demands for this case, and future similar cases, to be dealt with by the existing civil mechanisms instead of the inappropriate criminal code,” Warren said.

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Born in Medan, lives in Jakarta, loves Indonesia.

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